It’s not goodbye, it’s ‘later, baby’

Anyone who knows me knows that one of my favorite shows of all time is The Mindy Project, which wrapped up its sixth and final season on Tuesday, Nov. 14. While endings are never easy, this one was especially emotional for me. And here’s why…

Dear Mindy Kaling,

You don’t know me, and I don’t know you, but I feel like I do. Just like millions of viewers in the U.S. and around the world, I entered the universe of The Mindy Project and instantly fell in love with the quirky, over-the-top Mindy Lahiri and, in turn, became a fan of you. Your humor, your acting, your style, your confidence — I admired everything about you and the show.

So as the final scene of the series finale panned out and I watched as Mindy and Danny grew smaller and smaller in the glow of the television light in the fictional St. Brendan’s Hospital, I found tears streaming down my face. I was crying because it was over, yes, and because it ended with the hope that the duo rekindled their relationship, but also because I recognized something else in that dwindling last moment: I saw how both Mindy and I have grown, changed and evolved together.

I started watching the show on Hulu in my second year of college, which was in every way a tough year for me. From difficult courses to challenging roommate situations to being a generally shy and self-conscious person, my sophomore year began in a haze trying to find in myself the confidence to rise above the the circumstances I faced. I didn’t know what it meant to truly speak up or what it felt like to be a self-assured person, let alone be bold and brazen.

And then I ‘met’ Dr. Mindy Lahiri. For the first time, I saw someone who was completely confident in herself, someone who owned herself at every turn and never let anyone forget just how fabulous she was. Despite her immaturities, flaws and shortcomings, she was someone I wanted to be; she was successful and smart, and she knew her worth and made it known to others.

Watching Mindy Lahiri that year became a nightly ritual, ending my night with bouts of laughter that softened the edges of a rough day. I watched in amazement as she stood up to Danny in “Danny Castellano is My Gynecologist,” rooted for her as she navigated her many relationships, and hoped that she would soon find her happily ever after.

As the seasons went on and Mindy Lahiri’s adventures took her different places, I too embarked on my own journey. As Mindy applied for her fellowship at Stanford, I applied for and got my very first job on campus. When Mindy and Danny came together (and eventually fell apart), I found myself coming together, ditching my past insecurities for a greater sense of self. As Later, Baby began to take off, I was about to set off on my final year of college. When Mindy finally decided to commit herself to Ben and secure the happy ending she thought she wanted, I had my own happy ending when I graduated from college Phi Beta Kappa.

And as Mindy learned that she — along with Danny and her colleagues at Schulman & Associates — all changed for the better by the final season, I noticed that, after all these years watching and rooting for Mindy, I also changed. While I am not perfect, just like Mindy isn’t perfect by the end of season six, I now know who I am, I am at peace with who I was and the mistakes I made, and I know who I want to be going forward.

Now the show is over. Mindy has matured, and so have I. While the future is uncertain for us both, we’ve learned quite a bit from where we started: both a little messy, both in need of some polishing. We both seem to know now that, no matter what may come our way, we have the tools to tackle it head-on. We’ve come a long way.

With no more episodes left, no new adventures and no guessing what happens next, it feels as if I’ve lost a friend — the friend in my head. Mindy has seen me through so many highs and lows, from my surly sophomore year of college to my very first big-girl job in the media industry. But every story has an ending, and while Mindy Lahiri’s is over, mine is just beginning. And no matter what may lie ahead, thanks to Mindy Lahiri, I will always remember that I am a warrior, and my warrior name is “Beyoncé Pad Thai.”

So, to Mindy Kaling, thank you for creating a character that inspired me and countless  others. Thank you for showing us that women can be confident and outspoken, stylish and a straight-up boss. But thank you most of all for your talent, your art and your heart. You’ve commented so beautifully on what it means to be a female professional, friend, parent, partner and woman in the world, and we are all the better for it.

Mindy Lahiri will surely be missed, but she will always be just a click away. So while this ending is bittersweet, it’s not goodbye. It’s ‘later, baby.’



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