I'm very happy to report some good news.
I got a job.
What's so amazing to me is that it is better than I could have wished for. That is the Greatness of God; when you lose something and have it replaced by better---and it isn't just better than you imagine...it's better than you could have EVER imagined. Subhanallah.
Inshahallah, I will be teaching English to high school students at an international school on this side of the Nile. I had wanted to make a switch to teaching upper grades a year ago but was thwarted by my then principal. She was determined to keep me where I was.
When I left my former school for a new school it was in order to please Allah. I never would have left the school for an increase in money or status. I left the international school where I was teaching to go to an Islamic school. Yet, after a month it was abundantly clear that chaos was running amok in the building. That opportunity was cut short through no fault of my own. That was hard. It's always hard for me to make decisions in order to get closer to Allah and then be without worldly comforts. Yet, journeys of faith require that of us---even in modern times. We need to feel empty before The Spirit can fill us up.
So, I searched both outwardly and inwardly for what really mattered. I learned a lot. It reminded me of the summer of 2001 when I searched for so much and started to find Islam. There are similarities in those times and I should write down reminders of what I did to achieve better.
Lessons Learned from a Search
Limit the down time of confusion and asking "Why?" Nothing lasts forever. If something just ended for you then it was meant to end. Alhumdulillah for the new chance at redefining what you want.
Clean up your life in terms of what's around you; in your home, in your inbox, in your finances. If someone owes you money, ask for it. If you owe someone money, repay it. If you need to get forgiveness, ask for it. If you need to forgive, do it. Wipe slates clean and be free from problems and dirtiness.
Think if you judged someone unfairly---even if you never spoke it aloud. Maybe you once thought someone was less than you yet in this new moment they have more than you. Use this time to ask forgiveness from Allah for putting on airs. Remember that "But for the Grace of God go I".
Focus your life on what really matters. This is not about what others try to tell you is important. What they think and feel might not be true for you. Really dig down and know who you are and what you need; not what you want. Wants are different. I might want a million dollars but I don't need that. Figure out how much money you need in a month. Figure out how much time you need with your family. Decide if you'd be willing to move or to shift your days to nights. Think who you are and how you can deconstruct your life to rebuild more of the life you need.
Eliminate options which are not for you. Pray istakarah and follow whichever way seems open for you. Don't keep the entire buffet of choices open. If you know something will never work, then put some plastic wrap on it. You can't be swirling around limitless ideas in your head. You will go insane. You must admit when something doesn't speak to you. One way to know that something isn't right is to feel if you have inaction. If you can't get your body there then your soul isn't into it. Now, it might be that later it makes sense. So, you don't have to remove it altogether. Just be realistic when, "the now" tells you that it doesn't feel possible.
Connect to those people who you love and trust in your family and your past workplaces. I looked up a woman I hadn't seen in 20 years. For real! She became one of my references in this hiring process.
I'll tell you a story which you might not believe (but if you're a long-time reader I think you will).
I re-connected with a former co-worker. I had never really let our relationship drop. I would call up and check in. A month went past and I sent an email letting her know that I was still looking and wondered if she had heard of any openings in the area.
She emailed me back that the school where I had previously worked had just hired someone in the middle school to teach English. I was shocked. How could that happen? How could she not have recommend me? That was my first response. I was allowing my hurt and fear to control my mind. I was letting the feeling of lack tell me that I had lost a chance---when in fact it was never mine.
So, I wrote her back a nice email and I focused on something really wonderful in her email instead. This lady isn't Muslim yet she had told me that she was reading a biography of The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). I decided to do a little dawah with this American teacher. I wanted to share a hadith; saying from the Prophet about education. I wanted to get it just right so I searched it on the internet and found it:
It enables its possessor to distinguish right from wrong;
it lights the way to Heaven;
it is our friend in the desert,
our society in solitude,
our companion when friendless,
it guides us to happiness;
it sustains us in misery;
it is an ornament amongst friends;
and an armour against enemies."
The whole website looked good. I skimmed through it to make sure that the information would be understandable for her. I sent her the email with that link. Then I went back to look some more.
I was drawn to a list of revert stories. There were some of the usual reverts: Yusef Islam, Yusuf Estes, and Sheik Hamza Yusuf. You revert bros really love Nabi Yusuf/Joseph (peace be upon him)! I saw a woman's name I recognized. I clicked on the link and read her story. Was it her? That sure would be strange if it was!
So, I emailed that American Muslimah in Cairo who has the same name and asked her. Sure enough, she emailed me back and told me that her revert story is on the website. That website was one I had never visited before. I had only found it in my attempt to help the American teacher learn more about the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
I had connected with this woman before in her role as headmistress during my job search. Though I didn't want to work at her school, we remained friendly; sisterly even, with each other. When I emailed her, she let me know that there was a new site where some jobs were getting listed. She gave me the link.
When I went to the site, I was stunned to see a job for a school I had toured a month ago. At that time, there was nothing. I had emailed my resume (or "my CV" as they say in Egypt) and had heard nothing. There had been a dead-end. Yet, unbelievably, this sister had shown me the way to find a job posting from them.
Most sincerely, I found my current job through the Grace of God. If you read that story, you can't help but agree that God worked through my good intention of making dawah. If I had been pulled inward, or grumbled at my fate, or wondered "Why her and not me?" then I never would have gotten this gift of employment.
Craft yourself into somebody special and spectacular. When I presented myself I truly could have made myself sound like a bum. Yet, I don't believe I'm on this earth to be lowly. I'm here to be uniquely me. No one can be me. I'm the best me that can be! That's not just positive pep-talk. That's accurate. No one else has what you have. You simply have to spin it. You have to work it into one incredible presentation. You show it in your CV. You show it in your profile picture (a must in Egypt). You show it in your interview. You know the key points which make you special and noteworthy and more qualified for the job and you hit those points like a pundit on Fox News.
Know your worth and don't sell yourself short. I was offered 1,000 LE from one of the schools. The principal knew me from my former school and was so excited to think of offering me a position only to hear from the owner of the school a ridiculous sum. 1,000 would be what a hall monitor gets paid at my former school. That didn't mean the owner was trying to insult me. He simply didn't know my worth. I did. Another school offered me 3,000 LE a month. That still is barely livable in Egypt. It certainly isn't what I feel good in taking.
It's important in Egypt to keep your salary where you need it and never accept a job much below what you are worth. This is truer in Egypt than in America. If I had accepted either offer as a stop-gap measure then I would have never been able to sell myself as top-notch again. You can talk to everybody but don't believe everybody.
Keep buoyant. "Don't let the turkeys get you down," is one of my dad's favorite sayings to me over the years. It's true! Things in motion stay in motion. You must remain hopeful and patient. If you feel yourself going down then figure out what makes you rebound. Maybe you need a giggle on the phone with a friend. Maybe you need a hug from the hub. A funny movie! Or maybe you need to go to the bookstore (which we did three times during this lull). Doing a little retail therapy is OK if you acknowledge it for what it is. Eating something delicious is good too as long as you have it as a special treat and not as a pig out. Remember that life is enjoyable.
Keep it going. Keep the flow. Sure, you can leave the dishes in the sink for a day but not a week. You can stay in jammies one day but shower up that night and look presentable by dinner. If you get too far away from a schedule you will feel crazy. One of the best ways to "keep it going" is by adhering to the five daily prayers---especially fajr prayer. You need to structure your days and your weeks. Searching isn't a quick fix. It's an overhaul. You need energy from sleeping right, eating right, getting out in the fresh air and being social. Don't become an unwashed, unlovable hermit.
Avoid envy of others who have what you want. This was hard for me. I fought inside myself the feelings of jealousy towards the teachers who had classrooms while I didn't. I avoided the teacher who still had a KG class back at the Islamic school. Finally, I made the effort and chatted with her. Actually, we had this great time and I'm so glad I could get over myself. She was just a person. She wasn't responsible for me losing my job. She was stuck with being overly responsible since I left. She and I could still connect and understand each other on many levels. My avoidance of her was needless.
Be ready to drop everything and do what you need. "Can you come for an interview tomorrow?" always needs to be met with "YES! I'd love to!" So, have the clothes you need washed and pressed the night before. I had one awful experience of not having my skirt pressed and the electricity went out. I was actually heating up a pan on the gas stove and then trying to heat up the iron on top of that. It was laughable! It didn't work. Thankfully, the electricity came on again at the last moment. It's also good to have the resume/CV printed out ahead of time. Have all your work papers in a file. Make sure that you have current phone numbers and email for references along with their knowledge and permission to use their names.
Gain information about your field. Take every experience as a positive. I learned so much about Egyptian schools. I learned so much from every interview. I'm grateful for the knowledge.
You will never regret learning. You might not always like what you learn. I wasn't happy, for instance, to find out how many Egyptian schools are run for profit first and foremost with little regard to education. You can keep in mind that every place you visit (whether on the web or in person) will build upon your knowledge and help you make better decisions.
I showed up to schools and simply asked to meet with someone. It's very hard to call around Egypt and face-to-face works better. I took tours of schools as a mom...who, by the way, is a teacher if you need one.
In 2001, when I was looking to get into real estate back in America, I asked for "informational interviews" at a couple of offices. I made an appointment with the managers of those offices and talked with them about what I could offer and how they saw me fitting into a real estate office. Neither had any openings. Yet, when the large regional office had a great job open up, one of those managers recommended me based on our time together. It was an awesome opportunity which opened up because I had knocked.
See the big picture. I kept seeing how my salary was only part of the equation. Money truly isn't everything. There was my son's tuition to think about. Some schools were able to wave tuition if I accepted. Some schools could only offer a 25% discount. The school which now employs me offers 70% which is amazing (however it pays me less than the schools before).
There was transportation to think about too. If I was traveling over the Nile every day to get to an upscale school in Maadi, I was going to add three hours to our day. If I calculated those three hours as part of my time at work, then all of a sudden that higher wage wasn't any better than the lower wage I could get within my neighborhood. I hate waiting needlessly. Sitting in Cairo traffic is one of the biggest pains ever. I made a decision not to keep looking in Maadi.
Remember the long-term even as you feel that you have to meet your daily needs. I didn't want to simply get a seat in second grade for Mr. Boo. I wanted to ensure a trajectory into high school as well---and even BEYOND high school. Which school really fostered his sense of self? Which school made getting into university easier for him? Which prepared him for a successful life?
Let go of some preconceived notions. I had thought that I had to honor my hijrah by moving us to an Islamic school. This fall, when that Islamic school was so wrong for us, I interviewed at another and had another horrible experience. I had to really look at the truth staring me in the face and whacking me upside the head. Building up my Muslim son might have to be at a secular school. I prayed about it and was given the chance to go back on something I had once held as crucial.
Be grateful for the time, for the chance, for the breaking down and the building up. Don't wish away the chance to be at loose ends. It's only through the pulling apart of our lives in times of transition that we can weave another dream of who we want to be.
Thanks to all of you who read this blog and who have been keeping us in your prayers and good thoughts. I know I'm not alone in this world. I know people do care. I'm grateful for you.
Be open to God's plan. Last week, I went to Twitter and started typing to ask for prayers. Why not? I needed some help. They had narrowed the search down to two people. I said I needed a "prayer push". However, I stopped myself from asking for a specific outcome. No, if God didn't want that school for me then I didn't want it either. In the end, I tweeted how I wanted to be able to accept God's plan.
Alhumdulillah, acceptance is our everything. You might want a thing which is bad for you but God knows better. God knows the seen AND the unseen. Do what you can and then trust that God knows best.
God is The Greatest.