(originally written in October '16.)
I watched the pilot episode of The West Wing back in August. I'd just gotten back from Australia, I finished Bob's Burgers and Lady Dynamite and a few other shows I'd been meaning to start or catch up on while away, and I wanted to check out something that had a good reputation among TV-watchers — something known for the quality of its content, something people had mentioned to me a few times as something they thought I'd like. I watched the pilot. it didn't stick, so I moved on to other shows. about a month and a half ago, I tried again: I re-watched the pilot, and then I watched the second episode. then, the third. the fourth. the entire first season, followed by the second. over the stretch of this past month and a half, I watched 7 years' worth of television. The West Wing is about politics in the same way Breaking Bad, another favorite show of mine, is about drugs; it's the outside force that drives the plot and creates the necessary conflicts, but that's not really what the show is about. to me, The West Wing is about love: love for the family you find as you move through life, love for progress, fairness, and justice, love for your country and your countrymen. it's about respect, it’s about hope. it's about people who strive to be better by doing better, people who push themselves and those around them to demand more of each other and their circumstances. it smacks of optimism. it's exactly what I needed to experience at this point in my life—and at this point in history. you want an antidote for the toxic mess that is the 2016 Presidential election? watch The West Wing.
"what's next?" is the central question of the show. just about every major character asks it at least once — or, in President Bartlet's case, at least a hundred times. (probably. I never counted. maybe someday.) in a flashback to the campaign trail, Bartlet says to Josh: "when I ask 'what's next?', it means I'm ready to move on to other things. so: what’s next?" for those of you who like to ask people what their tattoos mean, here it is: when I ask myself "what’s next?", which is often, it means I'm ready to move on to other things. it means I'm ready to move forward, to progress. it means I'm satisfied with what I've done and want to take on the next challenge. the font used is my own handwriting; I felt it was important to remember that this is a question I need to ask myself continually if I want to be anything like the brilliant but brilliantly flawed characters populating that fictional West Wing: those who are determined, supportive, optimistic, brave, those who want to be better than they were the day before, those who are unafraid to face the challenges that come along with being deeply passionate about something, whatever that something is.