Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Leaving the Parks Department with Leslie Knope

Last night was the series finale of Parks and Recreation. If you know anything about me, you know that I take series finales very hard, and very personally. I hate it when things end. I get, one may say, emotional. And a finale is never as good as I want it to be, because it still feels like one of your favorite tv shows is breaking up with you.

The only way I could have truly loved the Parks and Rec finale is if once the credits rolled, Jean Ralphio popped out and yelled, "Psyeeeeeeeech!" And then they just kept doing the show for another hundred years.

Or something.

I think this finale hit me a bit harder than others, though, because it was about the end a group of people who work together and love each other.

Last month, I made the decision to leave my job at Christianity Today. My long-term goal has always been to become a full-time independent writer and editor, and that opportunity finally opened up. I knew it was the right time and the right decision to leave my job.

But I wasn't just leaving a job. I was leaving some of my very best friends--people I've seen every day for the last five years. These are the people who've known me since I was 23; people who grew me and had the hard conversations with me. They're also the people who I've gone on ice cream runs and Starbies runs (treat yo' self) and lunch runs with weekly for the last five years.

They helped me leave my college days behind completely and taught me that you can still be yourself when you're a grownup. I moved from early 20's to almost 30 with these people--I went from single to dating to single to dating to single to dating to married with these people, and they saw me through it all. Cory used to send me sassy break-up mixes when I was feeling heartbroken and Laura would come dance around my office with me until I felt better.

And I watched their lives change, too. I held their babies and their baby showers. I felt heartbroken when they felt heartbroken. We celebrated and we prayed for each other.  These are people who I will hold dearly in my heart for the rest of my life--women who are strong and smart and gritty and beautiful, and men who taught me how good-hearted men can actually be.

I cried last night while watching a bunch of my favorite friends and colleagues (I mean, no, I mean Leslie Knope's friends and colleagues) say goodbye and move forward into the future of their lives because Leslie and I have sort of a kinship in that we're very intense people who feel EVERYTHING FOR EVERYONE VERY DEEPLY. I knew exactly what she was going through, wondering what the future would hold and when all of these people would be in the same room again. I cried because it was too recent for me that I did the same thing. I don't live far from CT, or from any of these friends, and I will see all of them regularly, but when you don't work together, you aren't a team anymore. You don't get each other through the day with stupid YouTubes and dance parties anymore.

I liked being a team.

On my last day at work I walked around the building and took it all in. I felt so overwhelmed by the emotions of leaving and who I was leaving that I almost couldn't breathe. I walked past the painting of Billy Graham that I jokingly saluted on the way down the hall to my first job interview (I got caught doing this by the VP and she still hired me. Please recognize how amazing these people are.) I walked by the bathroom I cried in after my first ever work review, the cubicle I started in when I was a coordinator, and all the offices of people who weren't there anymore, who I missed. I walked past the room where a big group of us used to eat lunch together--a room where I laughed so hard that my face would hurt for the rest of the day.

And then I walked by the coffee station where I bumped into my future husband, Kevin, for the first time.

I pictured it all like a movie of ghosts before my eyes because let's be honest, I want my life to be a Nora Ephron movie. I remember him cordially shaking my hand and introducing himself, and I remember being horribly awkward and trying not to stare at him because they just don't make men who actually look and talk like that in real life do they?

I remember thinking, This is it. This is the guy. I'm done. I marched into Mary's office afterwards to inform her that I'd just met the man I was going to marry. Two years later, this happened:

We both had work "colleagues" in our wedding party--people who'd started as acquaintances and became sisters and brothers. The man who married us used to be Kevin's boss at CT.

I know, it doesn't sound real. It sounds pretend and weird. But Christianity Today is kind of a pretend, weird place, with characters you'd find in books and people you'd cheer for in movies.

I love my life now. I get to drink coffee in bed in silence for as long as I want before I'm ready to get up, and I get to write and edit for a variety of people who pay me, regardless of whether or not I'm unshowered and wearing sweatpants while I do it. And other highly professional reasons.

I have more room for more people in my life (and more room for some of the same people, now I just make them come see me on their lunch breaks) and I am certain I made the right choice. God had been asking me to trust him with my finances and my future for a long time, and I finally did. I feel brave and my cheeks feel flushed again. This is an adventure for me.

But I know where I came from, and who I have, in part, to thank for getting me here. My very, very dear work family.

I love you guys very much.

Except for you, Jerry.

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