Skip to main content


The One That Truly Matters

Hunting for a job and home, I find the meaning of victory.

Empowerment—Simone Obidah in Brooklyn, N.Y., February 2024. Photo by Marco Giannavola.

by Simone Obidah
New York

So much as grumble the words “apartment hunting” in a room of New Yorkers and you’ll feel the tension rise, every ear perking up. New Yorkers know the pains of “the hunt.” They want to hear your story and tell their own, to commiserate and vent and outdo. 

“Hunting,” I came to realize upon arriving here in January 2022, is not something you do for housing alone; it is a mindset. Job hunting is no less a struggle. “Years,” friends told me when I asked them how long it takes to break into the New York tech industry, the dream that brought me here. I’d completed a three-month tech course before leaving California, but that was all. Otherwise, my resume was top to bottom culinary experience. What’s more, just 3% of the industry are women of color. Externally, the odds were against me, but it was the internal self-doubt that threatened to crush me. 

Leaving work early to look at apartments, usually located in far-flung parts of town, I’d be shocked on arrival by their dingey smallness, and also by the 50 other people vying to rent. Sometimes, you’d discover that someone who’d yet to see a place in person had already made a deposit, desperate to close. The mindset of “the hunt”—of endlessly racing down dead end roads—colored every area of my life, my Buddhist practice included.

Coming home at midnight after an evening waiting tables, I’d crawl onto my air mattress behind my aunt’s living room couch and fall asleep, bitterly frustrated. Come morning, I’d wake at 6 to make it to the Brooklyn Buddhist Center for a Byakuren shift. Or I’d head out for a home visit. 

Making these morning shifts and visits was a battle, but it was one I knew I had to win, the one to decide all others. Speaking to the young women in my chapter, it was clear that beneath their unique struggles lay a common one: a struggle to believe in themselves.  

Seeking from seniors in faith, I grasped that my breakthrough was not for my sake alone. I had to show actual proof. My struggle was my mission, one I could shoulder alongside my sisters in faith and demonstrate that it was, indeed, possible to break through seemingly insurmountable odds.

“You know, Simone,” a senior in faith told me, “jobs will come and go. But true victory is to triumph over your doubts.” 

Then and now, I keep this passage from The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin propped on my altar: 

[T]he prayers offered by a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra will be answered just as an echo answers a sound, as a shadow follows a form, as the reflection of the moon appears in clear water, as a mirror collects dewdrops, as a magnet attracts iron, as amber attracts particles of dust, or as a clear mirror reflects the color of an object. (“On Prayer,” WND-1, 340)

Each day I chanted to defeat my doubts alongside my sisters in faith. Time and again, I told them I would break through and land a tech job. Overcoming my doubts freed me to take decisive action, sending resumes, conducting interviews and reaching out to potential employers. 

In March 2022, my efforts bore fruit. A tech industry recruiter reached out. Interviews followed, one after another. Of a pool of 500 interviewees, I and two others made it to the final round, which I left feeling confident of victory.

A few days later, however, the recruiter called with crushing news: I hadn’t gotten the job. She went on, but her words didn’t reach me. They were swallowed by a tide of defeat.

That night, chanting to the Gohonzon, the feeling of defeat began to subside. I played the conversation over in my mind, and heard for the first time the words that had followed the bad news: “—But other positions are opening up. And I’ve been asked: ‘Please do everything you can to get Simone on the team.’”

It wasn’t over—actually, far from it. My self-doubt had blinded me to my own advance. 

That summer, a position did indeed open up. In May, I was informed the job was mine!

Meeting with other young women’s division members, New Jersey, January 2024.

“The two things you shared that really stood out to us,” my boss told me, “was your mindset as a Buddhist to see all obstacles as opportunities to grow and your extensive restaurant experience. I myself have worked in a number of kitchens—not for softies. You need hustle and grit to succeed.”

Meanwhile, the house hunt continued. I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever find a place I could afford and even truly love. In September, I accepted responsibility as the vice zone young women’s leader and sought from seniors in faith about how to ensure the success of my first 100 days, especially when I felt bogged down by my endless search for housing. 

I was encouraged to smile each morning when I open my altar to chant to the Gohonzon and take a moment to say, “Thank you,” and then resolve to do my most vigorous gongyo yet. As I did so, I found I felt invigorated. 

Later that week, returning from a particularly long and disappointing search, I felt a rush of appreciation. I don’t have to wait for an apartment, I decided, suddenly. The actual proof is not an apartment. It’s my life, the way I live it, undiscouraged by anything. Suddenly, I felt light. Coming home, I went straight to the Gohonzon and chanted with deep appreciation for my life. Nothing had changed, and yet, everything had. Two days later, my aunt and I got a call from our broker about a rent-controlled place 10 minutes away. Walking inside, we exchanged wide-eyed looks. It was gorgeous, spacious, in a beautiful part of town. “It hasn’t been publicly listed,” said the broker. “If you want it, it’s yours.”

There are days even now when I’m hit by waves of self-doubt. Sometimes, it feels as though I’m standing stock still in a storm—sleet and rain and hail preventing even one forward step. At such times, I look around me, at my home, at the strong, bright young women who gather in it, at my dream job—at the life I’ve built. And I can say with certainty that even when I’ve felt at a standstill—especially then—I was advancing. Of course I was. Of course I am. Knowing this, to me, is the ultimate victory. The one that truly matters.  

March 1, 2024, World Tribune, p. 5

April Introductory Exam Updates

The Power of Friendship