Recently, my partner and I have been rewatching The West Wing. If you haven’t ever seen this ’90s and early ’00s classic (you should!), it follows a group of White House senior staff members serving under President Josiah Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen. If you have watched it, you’re probably familiar with one of the most often repeated lines of the show: Josiah Bartlet’s catchphrase, “What’s next?”
It’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot over the past year, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. We’re in a time of great uncertainty, and planning anything can seem daunting, if not completely impossible. Plans with friends usually include the phrase “when all this is over” or “when things are back to normal”, but no one seems to know for certain when that will be. Everything, it seems, is on hold.
But I’ve noticed that whenever Josiah Bartlet asks “What’s next?”, it’s never in the spirit of defeat, or confusion, or hopelessness. In fact, he usually asks it when he’s just triumphed over one challenge and is ready to tackle another one. Major political scandal? “What’s next?” A slanderous campaign ad from the other party? “What’s next?” Nuclear war resolved at the absolute last second? “What’s next?” Functionally, the phrase signals to viewers the closing of one chapter and the pursuit of a new storyline, but philosophically, it’s about the decision to keep moving forward.
The Heller Admissions blog will be taking a brief hiatus between now and January 5th, and I know I’ll be using that time to relax, reflect, and to come up with new ways to improve the blog in 2021. I hope that you’ll spend the remainder of 2020 in ways that are restful and restorative to you so that we can both greet 2021’s challenges with a Josiah Bartlet-style “What’s next?”