Search & Replace S03E07: Ruksana Hussain

Ruksana Hussain is a writer and journalist who faced numerous challenges in her career. Determined to explore her options, she took on multiple part-time jobs, freelanced, and became a features generalist, writing about various topics. However, the constant hustle and lack of focus took a toll on her health, leading to a six-month recovery period. During this time, she realized the importance of putting herself first and establishing a schedule that suited her needs. She adopted a more measured approach to work, turning down assignments that didn’t align with her goals. Today, Ruksana has found contentment in her freelance writing and editing career, working on projects she’s passionate about and making them work for her. Discover the significance of saying no to opportunities that don’t serve you and making conscious choices that contribute to the overall quality of life on Search and Replace. 

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[00:00:00] Announcer: Support for the following podcast is provided by the user experience specialist at Johns and Taylor. More information follows this episode. 

[00:00:09] Joe Taylor Jr.: What if you move halfway around the world to pursue your dream job, but your dream job puts you in the hospital? I’m Joe Taylor, Jr. This is Search and Replace.

Ruksana Hussain has been writing profiles about food, travel and community leaders for over two decades. But her path to a career as a professional writer in the United States got off to a bumpy start. 

[00:00:36] Ruksana Hussain: I am a communications professional and journalist, by background. Born in India, raised in Oman. I moved to the US in 2006 as a 25 year-old, and initially could not work because of visa issues.

And by the time I did earn what you call an employment document to be able to legally work in the us, we had the 2008 recession, which meant that I could not find employment very easily. So I ended up taking on, I’m gonna say, five or six different part-time gigs in an effort to one, understand what I wanted my future in the US to look like, and two, to sort of bring myself up to speed.

[00:01:19] Joe Taylor Jr.: Ruksana regrouped and freelanced her way through that recession. And her editors liked that she took a broad approach to her work at the start of her career. 

[00:01:27] Ruksana Hussain: I am what you would call a features generalist by trade. I enjoy research, I enjoy learning, and so I love writing about pretty much anything under the sun where I get to learn something new.

So obviously that means the stories that people tell, backgrounds on new projects, new experiences. So, for me, it’s enjoying that journey of telling that story, whatever that story might be. Having all these different options. I said to myself, I’m gonna give myself five years to explore each of these to the best that I can and decide which one of those I’m gonna pursue.

But that also meant that I was exploring five different career paths not necessarily related to each other. 

[00:02:10] Joe Taylor Jr.: That’s not a sustainable career choice though, especially for a writer. 

[00:02:14] Ruksana Hussain: I should have known to slow down. I think there were some instances of fatigue or burnout and I simply kept going. Cause when you are young and you think you have all these years ahead of you, you’d not imagine that you can actually be burnt out or tired.

That brings me to 2013 when I had my health scare and it pretty much was going to bed one day, getting up the next morning and not being able to get out of bed. And that’s it. And that was something that took six months of recovery before I could walk on my own, drive a car on my own, or be left alone unsupervised to take care of myself. And that was scary. 

And that’s when six months turned out to be a good time for me to reevaluate the five years that I’ve been spending doing all these different things and saying, okay, there has to be one thing I have to focus on cuz that’s the only way I can take care of my health. 

[00:03:06] Joe Taylor Jr.: With that initial six months of recovery behind her, Roxana employed a more measured approach to taking on new work.

[00:03:13] Ruksana Hussain: I had to turn down a lot of very fun assignments during that process and that made me think of, well, what is it that I would like to be able to do once I’m able to walk and drive a car again? 

Learning from that moment to put myself first and put up a schedule that I wanted to work with rather than working on a schedule that my clients or my projects had on. And that’s a very different mindset to have If you’re someone that has been taught that you need to hustle to make things happen. To put yourself first, that was really hard. 

Definitely came upon this realization somewhere in that six-month recovery period lying in bed that I’d been running behind every single project I could find, right?

If someone said, can you do this? My answer was Yes. Fake it till you make it. You’ll learn as you go. Those are not good lessons to be teaching people, and I had to learn the hard way that saying yes to everything that came at me was what got me there, unwell. 

Realizing that I cannot keep saying yes to everyone. There are some things that I will just have to say no to because they simply did not serve me well. It’s about looking at how certain opportunities contribute to, sort of, the overall quality of your life experiences. And that is literally how I gauge or measure every single opportunity that comes to way. Whether that’s personal, professional, financial, whatever it is.

I will say that the minute I had my sole focus on freelance writing, editing, communications projects in general, It became very clear to me what I had to say no to. And then the projects that came along my way, I tried to be very cognizant of how that is gonna help me move forward in my career. 

[00:05:01] Joe Taylor Jr.: Today, Ruksana splits her time between writing for a variety of publications and producing a monthly magazine of her own.

[00:05:08] Ruksana Hussain: I don’t have to just wait for projects to come to me. I can make these projects work for me. So, where do I want to see my work? Who are the kinds of people I wanna work with? What sorts of projects do I wanna work on? What are some things I want to do, and more importantly, what are the things I don’t want to do?

I have a schedule that I love working with. I have a project right now that I’m very excited about. I have clients that I love working with, and I look forward to every day. I think I’m definitely in place where I am professionally content. I am personally content. And very excited about the future holds for me.

[00:05:48] Joe Taylor Jr.: That’s Los Angeles based writer Ruksana Hussain. We’ve got links to her work and to her monthly lifestyle magazine, Traveler and Tourist in our show notes and on our website at 

Also on our shownotes, Wanda Thibodeaux introduces us to bomb shelter, Betty or Ben, the type of independent professional that loves to say yes to everything and usually ends up regretting it. Wanda went to Inc. Magazine and published her list of tactics to stop that behavior if your work’s starting to threaten everything else in your life. 

And Lois Melkonian writes about how disconnects between our work lives and our personal values end up resulting in overwhelm. She’s posted a quiz and some other questions to ask yourself that can help clarify why your own to-do list may be overflowing.

We’ve got all those stories and more in our show notes and on our website at

Search and Replace was produced by Nicole Hubbard with support from Connie Evans. Amelia Lohmann, April Smith and Podcast Taxi executive producer Lori Taylor. Our theme music was composed by Alex Rufire. I’m Joe Taylor, Jr. 

[00:07:05] Announcer: This has been a Podcast Taxi radio production. 

Support for Search and Replace is provided by Johns and Taylor, user experience specialists serving media and technology companies that want their websites to work. 

Learn more about how top performing businesses eliminate barriers between customers and their goals at

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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