Dear Melanie of the future,

I’d like to propose a few things for this life year of 2020. Please consider these proposals and let me know if you have any questions or changes. Thanks love.

Melanie on the airplane to London, row 22

I agree to pour my heart into actualizing Tamkeen regardless of whether I receive a visa to enter Israel Palestine.

I have felt disempowered and afraid over this last month, waiting for permission to enter Israel with a formal yearlong work visa. The process has been incredibly frustrating to navigate from the United States, with my original sponsor Jerusalem School in Beit Hanina changing their minds about applying on my behalf. Recently their sister school in Beit Jala agreed to help, so I’ve been coordinating with Baruch in Jerusalem and Jamison in Bethlehem for the last few steps.

Israel’s Ministry of Social Affairs has recommended that the Ministry of Interior provide me with a visa, which is good news (75% done!). The next step is for Manhal to arrange an appointment, and Jamison and Baruch to deliver the recommendation from the first Ministry to the second. The Ministry of Interior will complete the process and send my visa back to the consulate in New York, where I will make an inpromptu flight, submit the necessary paperwork, and fly safely back to Israel Palestine in time for my Non-Violent Communication training in Beit Jala by February 26th, if all goes well.

I observe my growing impatience with the mess of bureaucracy, my fear that I will not be allowed entry to the place I built my life over the past year and a half. I miss Orjwan and my Jewish socialist roommates in Jerusalem, my forest green teapot and cup from the sea, my library of books, winter coats, woven bags, piles of shoes. I miss knowing that I am in my chosen home. And I’m ready, antsy, to pour my heart and soul into Tamkeen.

Today I want to question the belief that I cannot invest in Tamkeen without an Israeli visa.

It’s not serving me, it’s driving a nagging sense of dis-ease and lack of groundedness. I’ve been feeling unanchored during my time in Pleasanton. I have allowed the fear of not going back to Palestine to block the flow of energy in my body, leaving me vulnerable, hesitant, afraid to stay and to leave California.

Sure, I’m in limbo now, caught between family in Pleasanton and my new home in Jerusalem, aching to be back where I’ve chosen to be. I’m anxious and wanting desperately to be back in the desert land of olive trees, greeting old friends with big hugs. I’m scared of being rejected at the border and blocked from entering Israel Palestine, angry that the state of Israel controls Palestine’s borders. I want to escape this limbo.

In this moment, I want to remind you of two things, future Melanie. The first is that I must not idealize Palestine as a place free from anxiety or fear. There will be suffering in person in Palestine too. I’ll feel anxiety and sorrow for other reasons: the political tension at the border, the visible separation between Palestinians and Israelis, the escalating violence between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

The second is that life is a constant flow of settledness and transition. Every time I jump into something new, leave something behind, say goodbye to welcome in change, I encounter this transition. Being in transition is an opportunity to get cozy with the unknown, to stare ahead with courage and conviction. To say, this is the direction I’m heading, and nothing will stop me.

So here goes: I agree to dive into Tamkeen regardless of physical location. I will mentor Rawan and Yousef from wherever I am beginning February 10th. We will meet three days per week; they will gather at a spot with stable Internet and I will dial in from wherever I am. We will learn together and make do with what is. This is the reality of investing in Palestine. I’m building home in a known conflict zone. Nothing is certain but the truth of impermanence.

From now on, I refuse to see my life as on pause, waiting for an Israeli ministry to give me permission to live my life fully. If I continue, I may always be waiting.

This is the challenge: to free myself from the belief that someone else makes me free. I free myself in the conditions I am given, and I will stop pretending that anyone else has that power.

I don’t have my Israeli visa. So what? I will stop feeling sorry for myself and invest in the world I want to see. My feet are firmly planted in a vehicle traveling thousands of miles per hour in airspace because other human beings decided that the ground wasn’t the only place for us. Let’s do this, dear one.

I agree to stay with Carefree as a tech consultant on contract for the time being.

I am in transition in two big ways: soon I will move from the US to Palestine (and potentially back again), and I'm starting a new company in Palestine with no guaranteed revenues as of today. Being at Carefree gives me stable monthly income that enables the following:

  • Covers my personal expenses
  • Allows me to contribute to my company's expenses
  • Gives me a sense of expansiveness/generosity when it comes to giving to myself and others (things like paying for meals, the occasional new dress, birthday presents)
  • Gives me peace of mind that I don't have to worry about draining my savings

Removing the existential fear, real or imagined, is worth the 10-12 hours I invest per week in working with Carefree. In this way, it is an offering of kindness and love to you, my future self. Please check in with yourself to see if you still perceive the work in this way.

At the same time, I acknowledge my fears of continuing to work as a tech consultant on somebody else's dream. I see how this work takes away the precious hours that my brain is alive and fresh, capable of doing good work, considering new ideas, and writing beautifully. Simply keeping up with developments in London, navigating conflicts with colleagues, and managing my workflow – without adding any work – takes time and energy. (This rumination and worry of losing energy and "good brain hours" also takes time and energy.)

Can I see how working on somebody else's dream also enables me to work on my dream?

I fear that having a stable source of income will make me complacent: perhaps I will fight less for my own company's sustainability if I do not depend on its income for survival. I see the underlying belief that fighting for survival is good and creates urgency, and I want to question if this belief serves me. Right now, I don't think so. I want to operate from a place of generosity and patience in this space, knowing that the best things take time to materialize. I want to design curriculum from a place of spaciousness within myself, so that there is space for students to learn, make mistakes, and grow. Without space for myself, or flexibility with financing the project, there can be no true space for my students.

Finally, I am caught in the belief that Carefree doesn't value me, as they are not paying me what I'm worth. Perhaps we can flip this around: they are not paying me what I'd like to keep working for them. There is no judgment on my worth, but on their capacity to pay. If I want a change, I must ask for one.

With that said, I'm going to ask to change the consulting agreement at Carefree to become a retainer of $4-5k per month for up to 48 hours of work per month, and sign the contract for 3 months of work (until end of April when I leave Palestine). This will increase my salary and give me increased stability.

I agree to block days in my week to focus on Tamkeen, and other days to solely focus on coaching, self-reflection, and writing.

I want to ease my fear about Carefree taking up the majority of my good brain time. I have not been following a set schedule with my Carefree work, treating it as second priority to friend hangouts, family meals, and personal reflection. If I can commit and follow through on two days of work per week, I can truly relax on the other days. Two days of solid work provides peace of mind for five days.

I see that much of my anxiety and guilt around Carefree is centered on what I haven't done: I haven't finished my project, I haven't written that report, I haven't worked X number of hours. If I simply do the hours with dedication and focus, I can release my guilt and truly enjoy my freedom in the rest of my time.