I’ve had many humbling experiences in my life, including voluntarily going homeless for one week every year as part of an awareness-raising project. But my most humbling experience so far has been being unemployed.
Since I left my job in October, I went from being the man-of-the-house to the man-in-the-house. My new househusband role begins at 6:45 am when I wake up to make and pack my wife’s lunch. By 7:15 am, I’ve also ironed her clothes. At 7:30 am, I’m warming up the car to drop her off at the train station fifteen minutes later
After that, phase two begins. I make sure the house is clean, the laundry is done and dinner is made while also searching and applying for jobs. It sounds easy enough, right? Let me tell you, it’s one of the most difficult jobs I’ve ever done and I’m still trying to get it 100% right. I have a new respect for women and men who take on the role of homemaker. And, I can only imagine the work it takes to be a stay-at-home parent.
I’ve been fortunate to learn a lot from these experiences over the past couple of months. One of the most important lessons – one that will impact me for the rest of my life – is an even deeper appreciation of the amazing woman and partner I have by my side. God answered my prayers by sending me a supportive, understanding and compassionate wife.
In almost twenty years in the workforce, I have never been unemployed. But now, I’ve had ten weeks of rejection letters, and job searches that stretch late into the night, and begin again early the next morning. I send out five to ten personalized applications daily. Each day I try to enjoy being unemployed, but it stresses me out not having a job. Sometimes I feel depressed and sad, like I’m holding on by a thread. My silver lining each day is when my wife comes home. She always knows how to be my sunshine and joy.
My wife helps me with job searches far into the night, listens to my frustration, and even surprises me with little gifts to uplift me after her own long days at work. Above all, she never makes me feel as if I am less of a man for not having a job outside of the home.
One day, after receiving four rejection letters, I was ready to give up. My wife Samira walked in from work to see me tense with frustration and near tears. I was close to breaking down after all the unsuccessful preparation, interviews and repeatedly dashed hopes.
I looked into her eyes and she gazed back into mine and, leaning forward to hug me, whispered into my ear, “Yusef, all of these rejection letters and all of these unsuccessful interviews are just preparation for when you find the right job and meet the right people who see the value in having an employee as talented and passionate as you are.”
Before Samira and I got married, I had a long list of qualities I wanted in my future spouse, including someone who loves to smile, is kind-hearted and supportive. These sounded good on paper but I didn’t realize how important they were in action. Now, I see and learn from those traits, as embodied by my wife, every single day. I now have first-hand experience of what it feels like to be with someone who truly supports and helps me in becoming the best person I can be.
A few weeks after Samira whispered those encouraging words into my ear, after months of rejection, I had a successful interview and was offered a position working at an amazing company with a good group of people. There’s a saying that you see someone’s true colors during hardship. I’m fortunate that I experienced the hardship of unemployment because it helped me realize that my wife is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
Ed. note: Want to read more about Yusef and Samira? Read his first Love InshAllah post “Who I need to be – for you“, here!
Yusef Ramelize is a New York City-based graphic designer and the founder and project director of an annual awareness-raising campaign called Homeless for One Week. As he says on his website, “In all areas of my life, from activism to design expression, whether it’s a house to live in or a work of art, I seek to encourage appreciation for the things we take for granted in our lives.”