Grand Tetons, WY -- November 2015.

Grand Tetons, WY -- November 2015.

The big "why"

So, many of you already know the exciting news that is going to be revealed publicly tomorrow morning: Melanie Gleason Immigration Law (a Virtual Law Office) is opening!

Oh, what a labor of love, joy, heartache, disappointment, frustration, hope, and happiness--it has been. (It is fair to say that I have experienced the extremes of the human emotional range over the last year since I left Oakland in July 2015).

And as I am in burn-the-midnight-oil mode from now until the end of this week to ensure a solid launch, the question that I wake up and answer every day and one I wanted to write about today is: why am I doing any of this?

As I've mentioned before, there are personal and professional life experiences that have contributed to me ultimately leaving Oakland a year ago to start this pro bono journey.

But beyond my experiences are my top 3 values that I want to take the time to share with you all -- to give you a bigger sense of why I am doing and love this work. These values are what centers and drives me.

It is true that one of my biggest lessons over this past year is how a set of values is what really guides each of us during this lifetime. Life circumstances and situations constantly change; it is our values that truly inform our decision making and prioritization in life.

I firmly believe that with our values at the helm of our lives, it is our brightest North Star that can lead us to both our individual and collective purpose.

Talking with farmworkers in Lamont, California -- August 2015.

Talking with farmworkers in Lamont, California -- August 2015.

Community

I remember being a little kid and frequently wanting to plug in with other people: the other kids in my neighborhood, hell -- I remember just randomly walking up to a group of kids I didn't know at a pool party and asking them if they wanted to play. I guess I had organizer tendencies back then, too! :) I love communities. I have always wanted to create them, be a part of them, and explore how to make amazing things happen together.

From being a member of the UT Student Volunteer Board to being a community organizer in Florida, New Hampshire, and California -- I know deep in my heart and soul that when people work together and are in community, THAT is where change and impact happens.

And this project and Virtual Law Office would not be possible if it weren't for every single of you reading this right now. Community is what allows an idea to materialize and create real, sustainable change. 

Although this work has taken me into the most remote parts of the United States over this last calendar year, I have truly never felt alone. Isolated, absolutely. But alone, no. And a large part of that is because every Tuesday, I turn to this blog to share my experiences with you and many of you write back and we continue to dialogue.

And these dialogues, in community, are the building blocks to changing our cities and towns, country, and world.

On the Navajo Nation at Monument Valley, UT -- December 2015

On the Navajo Nation at Monument Valley, UT -- December 2015

Truth

When I was a freshman at UT Austin, there is a quote that is inscribed along the top of the UT Tower. It reads:

Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.

I have to admit, my 18 year old self didn't quite get it. I did know that it was profound, though. I actually think even way back then I understood that I would slowly understand the meaning of that phrase more over time. And I believe I did.

There are a lot of different truths out there -- ones that we hold personally, arguably profound and universal truths. 

Over the last year traveling throughout the United States, I've learned that so many of us want the same things out of life: happiness, peace, and safety. And there are so many unjust barriers that prevent that from being actualized by all. But I feel that the never-ending pursuit of these truths must be the key to setting us all free. And this pursuit does not lie externally, but rather a deliberate intersection of working with different communities, together -- in solidarity. As the Lilla Watson quote goes: 

If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

 

As for my personal truth -- it was for a long time that I thought I had to keep riding a trajectory that in retrospect, was not my path. This trajectory was in the form of former jobs (although I learned a TON from them, for which I am forever grateful) and a future that felt more about check boxes and lists than living out my truth. (And I must say that I recognize the HUGE privilege I have with being able to make choices and live a lifestyle and create a career that has meaning and speaks truly to me.)

And second, I've learned that living out your personal truth can be freaking hard. Deflecting nay-sayers and enduring personal challenges can be exhausting. But like all worthy exercise -- it is an exhaustion that leaves me feeling reinvigorated and alive -- and hope for what is ahead.

Sleeping at the Cut Bank, Montana office last fall 

Sleeping at the Cut Bank, Montana office last fall 

Compassion

Lemme be clear: there's a lot to be pissed about with current immigration policy and the state of affairs right now in general. And I think we all have the right to feel those emotions run through us.

After I sit with my frustrations for awhile, though -- I want to channel them. Do something with it. Transfer it into some other type of energy that is forward moving and action oriented.

Around this time last year, I heard a friend saying that he wanted to be: "compassionately fierce and fiercely compassionate."

I loved it. 

To me, the definition of compassion is actually strength instead of a weakness. To hold space for different emotions and points of view yet holding one's ground when it comes to speaking and acting on one's truth -- and humanity's.

And this project and opening my own Virtual Law Office feels like the best embodiment or conduit of my personal truth right now.

Out in the Central Valley in California last summer

Out in the Central Valley in California last summer

Tomorrow it begins!

So opening Melanie Gleason Immigration Law tomorrow (!!!) is where I feel like I can make the biggest difference right now in the movement. It also feels like the best way I can embody my values of community, truth, and compassion. I'll also continue my pro bono work in the eastern/southern part of the United States through the end of the year. As always, I'm excited to hopefully see many more of you on the road!

Tomorrow (Wednesday) morning is when everything officially goes live and you will receive a note in your inbox with the big announcement -- and I'd be honored to receive your continued support.

If you are able to contribute one-time or durationally, or spread the word to friends and family who may need immigration help -- it would mean the world. Together, we can advocate for a more inclusive America, and a more inclusive world. 

Here's to the next chapter and thanks to each and every one of you for your friendship! Onward!