TITLE: Our Two Consciences II: Growing Up and Moving
On (1/1)

AUTHOR: Laurel A. (lalden99@yahoo.com)

SPOILERS/RATING: Everything up to, and including,
Night Five/PG

DISCLAIMER: All of it belongs to others (i.e. Aaron
Sorkin, NBC, WB, etc.).

ARCHIVE: Anyplace, just let me know.

SUMMARY: Post–Ep for Night Five. Donna thinks about
her job offer and why it might be time to move on.

STUFF: Thanks to Michelle and Marty who have both
been really good sports about my new TV Boyfriend,

This piece is part of the J/D post-ep series "Our Two
Consciences" by Michelle H. and myself. You don't
need to read the other pieces to jump on in now! To
see the rest of the series (and some groovy
stand-alones), check out our website

"Is this your operating budget?"

"I'm – an assistant."
Sometimes I wonder if I've learned anything since I
was that young girl who drove from Wisconsin to New
Hampshire and talked her way into a job. I guess deep
down, part of me still is her, or I would have
realized that Casey was making a salary offer, not
showing off his operating budget.

But maybe it's time I started thinking of myself in a
different light, a more lucrative light. Maybe I am
worth that much money.

No, I am definitely worth that much money. It's not
just about the money though.

You can't stay in one place forever; you need to
progress, and to do that, you have to move on and give
things up to make room for other experiences. But the
White House is a pretty big thing to give up.

I guess it's a matter of trade-offs. And unless I
take this up to a higher level, all Josh will ever be
able to offer me here is my same title and that's not
much to trade with.

I used to think he could offer me more, professionally
as well as personally. But now I'm not so sure. In
fact, I have become more and more certain that he will
never be able to offer me more than he already has.

Not that I am ungrateful for what Josh has done for me
since he agreed to let me work for the campaign. But
I know that as long as I'm working under him, I will
never be able to relieve myself of the burden of
feeling indebted.

And maybe I've learned all I can from Josh. Not that
I think I could replace him in his job, but given the
tone our relationship has taken recently, I don't know
if either of us has the objectivity for me to learn
any more from him. I don't know if *we* have the
objectivity to learn anything more from *each other*.

And I don't think the course will be altered until
something changes between us. I don't know what that
is yet, or if it will ever happen. But I am positive
that we've gone as far as we can go right now, on any

Ironically, I did learn something from him today. I
learned that when your extremely faithful and
dedicated assistant tells you that she was offered
serious money to take another job, it's best to react
with barely masked disinterest and distain, topped off
with dismissal of the topic completely.

I also learned that assistants, even Senior Assistants
to the Deputy Chief for Strategic Planning, are given
assignments that involve simple Internet searches for
articles on sugar subsidies, and packing books into
their boss' backpack.

However, tonight I taught myself something too --
assistants are completely powerless when trying to
comfort the wives of kidnapped American reporters.

It's a stark illustration of how I feel here, and why
leaving for a job where I can voice my opinion and
rally others to action is so tempting.

The West Wing has become my home, and my family. It's
addictive working here; it's the challenge of the job,
and the power and prestige of working for the
President. But it's also addictive because it's safe
and familiar.

Safe and familiar are never good for change or growth.

And I know I can grow into more than just Josh's
traffic cop. I know it and Casey knows it. I don't
think Josh knows it, which makes Casey's offer all the
more attractive.

I have an MA in "Josh Lyman's Office," and like most
people who get MA's, I want to go out into the world
and use my degree. I don't want to be Josh's disciple

And however our working relationship and our
friendship is going to work out, I know it won't work
out if we stay stagnating the way we are now. Things
have changed between us, and maybe it's precisely
because things *haven't* changed between us.

Any relationship, working or otherwise, dies without
change and growth. You begin to disengage and
distance yourself from what you've emotionally
invested in the other person. And after you mourn a
bit for that loss, you begin to wonder why you cared
in the first place.

As I was watched CJ walk into her office to tell Janet
Price that even the White House is powerless to help a
reporter in the hands of terrorists, I felt frozen by
my own feelings of helplessness and frustration.
Wanting to both leave the White House behind for good,
and wanting to stay and fight so that we are no longer
powerless to help the next Billy Price.

Turning around to see Josh watching me, as I was
watching CJ and Janet Price, I couldn't read his
thoughts. A million things crossed my mind about what
he could be thinking, but whatever it was, unless he
is willing to show it, we will stay stuck and
stagnating where we are, until we no longer care.