February 18, 2016 by Ashlee Clark Thompson
For the past year, I’ve felt a lot like Leslie Knope, post-Harvest Festival.
I’d like to assume you all watched Parks and Recreation, one of my top 10 favorite sitcoms of all time. If you don’t, you need to get on that immediately (just skip season one). In the meantime, I’ll break it down for you: Leslie Knope, the plucky assistant director of parks and recreation in Pawnee, Ind., planned the Harvest Festival to help her city recover from financial trouble. The festival was a hit, but Leslie panicked soon after because she didn’t know how she could follow up such a successful project.
I know Leslie’s anguish. I spent five years building a career as a Louisville food writer right on this blog. Then, I got the chance to write a book that focused on the topics about which I cared the most: frugal, local eating. Louisville Diners was like my graduate thesis, my chance to showcase a segment of this city’s food scene. I was thrilled when it came out last March, but with the publication came a new worry: What comes next? Specifically:
- Would I write another book? If so, about what?
- What else could I do with Ashlee Eats?
- There are so many good food bloggers and Instagrammers and whatnot documenting the Louisville restaurant scene, was my voice even necessary or interesting anymore?
- Should I just focus on my day job and wrap up this blog?
On Parks and Rec, Ron ended up locking Leslie in a closet to force her to sleep and shut down her brain. The next day, she had ideas out the wazoo thanks to that mental reset. I don’t have any problems getting enough rest (napping is one of my favorite hobbies), but after a year of worrying, I’ve decided I need my own reset.
I’ve grown a lot since I started the blog in 2010, and so has Louisville. I started the blog to chronicle my adventures in frugal eating. Now, it’s time to think bigger. It’s time to be loud. And it’s time to dismantle my own insecurities about living up to the unreal expectations I loaded onto my own back.
Like Leslie Knope, I love my city. But we both know that our towns aren’t perfect. I want to do more to make Louisville a better place. I want to continue to explore the corners of our city that don’t get nearly enough attention when you see write-ups about the joys of Louisville’s eats. I want get readers out of their neighborhood comfort zones in search of a good meal. I want to talk about what we as a community can do to address the fact that 53,400 Kentuckians have to visit a food bank each week. I want to highlight the wonderful diversity in our city’s food scene that you can access for less than 10 bucks. I want to support worthwhile charities. I want to show this city some love but hold folks accountable for the problems in getting people access to healthful food. And I just want to eat and write about it.
After the Harvest Festival, Leslie ended up having a full career that maybe even culminated with the presidency (curse you, ambiguous ending). I’m not running for office, but I can see that my career is just ramping up. I just have to take a note from Leslie and Ron and get out of my own way.