About a month into my last job, a coworker heard me talking about food and sarcastically called me “Lemon” — as in Liz Lemon, from 30 Rock. Naturally, I was delighted, and unfortunately my enthusiasm ensured that no one ever called me Lemon again. (No one wants to give you a nickname you actually like.)
I loved Liz Lemon for her sloppiness, for her love of cheese, for her refusal to be ladylike, for the way she bossed around the manchildren who worked for her, and for the ways that she, too, was failing to grow up, despite her demanding job. Liz was my champion, at a time when I was lonely and overworked and spent too many evenings drinking wine alone, marathoning 30 Rock in my snuggie (aka slanket).
It was my love of Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon that led me to give her bestie Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope a shot. After watching the Parks and Recreation pilot, I was unsure. Leslie was embarrassingly eager about her uncool job. Leslie was hardworking and chipper and refused to back down, even in the face of absurd obstacles. I didn’t like seeing myself in her awkwardness, and I didn’t like not seeing myself in her passion and dedication to her work.
But I kept watching (mostly because I still had wine left). And thank god I did, because while I will always have a soft spot for Liz Lemon, I needed a woman like Leslie Knope in my life.
Leslie is eager, earnest, and totally uncool. But she is so unwaveringly herself, and that is a beautiful thing to see. Watching her win people over with her sincerity, generosity and unwavering friendship, made it easier for me to believe that I was worthy of friendship, too.
Amy, if by some miracle you happen to be reading this, thank you for bringing Leslie Knope into this world. At a time when I was down on myself, she helped me see that if I focused on what mattered—being true to myself, doing meaningful work, and honoring my friendships—everything would be okay. If someone had told me a few years ago that I’d spend a month writing my heart out publicly about all the women who have inspired me, I never would have believed that I had the bravery. Thank you for showing me that strong, intelligent, successful women can also be silly and earnest and vulnerable — and that, in fact, those traits are lovable.
Lastly, thank you for Galentine’s Day. Without that magical day of female friendship looming on the horizon and rose-tinting my judgment, I’m not sure that January-Emily would’ve been crazy enough to take on this #empoweredWritten project. But these 28 days of love and gratitude have changed my life.