Trisha Mokosh has spent a life and a career growing businesses and people. Having more than 20 years of experience in business advisory and executive leadership, she is skilled in leading multi-disciplinary teams, creating immense value and extraordinary professionals along the way. With her own company, Empowered, Trisha is able to bring her years of experience and enormous passion to leaders all over the country and globe. She regularly writes and speaks on a variety of topics, including authenticity in leadership, high impact teams, creating growth cultures, and many more. She is an American convert of Irish, French, and Slovak descent and speaks English and French.
I walked into the hotel, having just gotten off a plane from the United States, my mother in tow, and I was tired, dirty, and wrapped in a blanket. It was my first time in Paris. I had been studying French, trying to rejuvenate my high school level acumen, but it all went out the window when I saw him staring at me.
Tall, dark, and very handsome, he stared as though he was trying to remember where he had seen me before. I glanced at my mother and said, “If he keeps staring at me like that, I’m gonna pass out.” It was our turn and I walked up to the desk, and told him we needed to check in. It was only 11 a.m. Check-ins were at 3 p.m. but he’d be happy to show me how to get to the Eiffel Tower. I was getting dizzy. He pulled out a map and started circling things, but all I could hear was the sound of his voice and that beautiful accent. He was so kind, it’s the thing that sticks out the most, his genuine kindness.
I tried to block my facial expressions. I smiled back at him despite my efforts. “Thank you so much,” I said. “Merci Beaucoup, I mean.” He chuckled at me. “De rien.” Later that evening, I came down to the lobby to look up my email on the hotel computers. He came over and told me his name. He knew my age (he had copied my passport), but he didn’t believe it. He thought I was much younger. He asked me if I would go get a coffee with him after he finished work. I was so shocked, I just half smiled with my mouth gaping open. “Ah, okay!” That is how it all started. The week I was there, we spent 60 hours together. I would stay up all night and help him run the hotel: put the baguettes out with the breakfast buffet, help him organize the morning’s check outs, hail cabs for guests leaving early. He was a teacher, but was spending his time off managing the hotel at night.
He told me the first night that he was Muslim. I didn’t have any pre-conceived notions about that. I just knew I had to know more about this man and what he believed about God. He was such a principled man, I had never experienced that kind of man before, outside of my father and my uncles. He cared deeply about so many things in the world, he knew a ton about world events and history and he wanted to have important conversations with me about all of them. I had to keep up. I wanted to be interesting to him. He made me feel way more interesting than I actually was. I went home and read the Qur’an. I read books about Islam and Christianity and how they intersected. He never once persuaded me to convert to Islam. It was the opposite. He knew I wanted to, but he told me not to convert because of him. Three months later, I took my shahada. I felt like I was home.
I had no idea how my family would react, so I was very open about my conversion. It did not go over well. My brother has not spoken to me in over 5 years. My mother isn’t speaking to me now, and has told me some terrible things about how I’ve ruined her life and filled it with sorrow because I am now Muslim. It’s been very, very hard. It was not an easy road for us. The outside world of our relationship kept us apart for a long time. Families, distance, culture; but we couldn’t forget each other. I have loved him for seemingly a million years. I’ve never felt more at peace than when I am with him. We got married last month. God gave us a path, alhamdulilah.
I had built up in my mind how his family wouldn’t like me, how they would find fault and see me as a typical American white woman. I was so wrong. His mother and his sisters and his brothers and his nieces and nephews, they were all so kind and generous to me. He comes from a big family, something I never had. They welcomed me with open arms. They are all just as kind as he is. I should have known that any man that could be so principled and so gentle had to come from the same kind of family.
I am truly blessed. And maybe that is the biggest lesson in all of this: Allah protects you even if he teaches you hard lessons. Things I’ve noticed since we have married that I never thought about before: I love when he prays. The sound of his prayers makes me so happy. I love learning his routine. I love cooking for him. I love seeing him at the end of the day. I love how he loves his family. The conversations we’ve had with his family, me with my broken French and they with their broken English, have been some of the best times I’ve had.
There is a reason that we are taught that marriage is half of our deen. It’s HARD. Learning another person and understanding how they fit with you in the world is exhilarating, but hard too. It’s work and it’s commitment. But it’s the worthiest work you will ever do, other than raise your own children. Insha Allah.