When CJ was still Claudia, not yet in kindergarten but no longer small (she can't imagine herself small, except in old photographs) she played with her brothers and didn't think about being 'one of the boys'. She hadn't known there were words for girls like her (tomboy through feminista) because she hadn't known different. She didn't need to think about fitting in because the space fit her just right. Then she grew up.
Other spaces don't. Her father doesn't care, and CJ tries not to, but her mother would never have ended up with Flamingo as a codename. CJ will never be the prom queen. She's the one most likely to succeed and all the boys are scared of her. She's too tall and she talks too much and she laughs too loud. She wants to be somewhere those things doesn't matter. She doesn't want to be quiet, or to shrink away – she wants lipstick red dresses and a microphone to make the whole world stop and listen. She wants to change the world.
She tries that and she succeeds, on and off, with college activism and an internship and then EMILY's List and a half-dozen state-wide campaigns in between. She has a student loan and credit card bills and she's still that tall girl who cares about all the wrong things. She falls into the water and when she stands up, new baptised, she's already behind the curve. But she is needed, even if it's only because no one else wants the job, even if Jed Bartlet doesn't know it yet. She's right, and that carries her through when he forgets her name and when she looks up and down the campaign bus to see that she's the only one woman without 'assistant to' on her name-badge.
The world persists in not changing, or if it does it's too slow for her to see. She grows no better in accepting that, though she does get her microphone. She scares the men, and they love her for it; she laughs. Danny buys her a goldfish because he knows better than to try flowers by now. (She likes flowers too. But there's more joy in Danny's unprovoked mistakes than too-late flowers on Valentine's Day.)
She loses: faith, Simon, hope, her grip on herself. And she ends up behind Leo's desk, which doesn't help the problem. She's the one left behind (turn off the lights) when all the others have left for better things. She keeps the country running, and it's only at the end when someone remembers to ask: "CJ, what do you want to do next?"
A job that isn't this one, she thinks, and to kiss Danny without feeling like the women who let the invaders in. Not to think like one of the boys because she isn't, never has been. Frank Hollis asks: what do you think needs to be done, and would you like to do it? Not: I'm going to do this (I've already done it), so try and make me look good. She doesn't say yes right away but she does say yes.
She moves back to California and falls in more pools and has precisely one child, when the time is right. She travels and Danny stays home, and Danny travels while she stays home and sometimes they manage to be in the same place. It's not an unfamiliar feeling.
She blinks, and she has a four year old and a husband and her fifth different career. She thinks back to Berkeley and laughs. She allows herself to think 'maybe you can have it all' for thirty straight seconds before reality bites down hard and she remembers that she's not done yet.
They'll call it marriage and kids. She laughs at that too, like it's the end-point and not part of the process. She says she loves the life she chose. (Why not?)