Are You Stealing Another Person’s Job?

An angry store clerk, an indifferent post office assistant, a boring lecturer, an unfriendly server… – we’ve all encountered unhappy employees.

There are hundreds of reasons why they might look unhappy: maybe they are not feeling well, or perhaps they have some problems at home, or maybe they’ve just had an argument with a colleague – it could be anything, of course, but one very common reason for people’s unhappiness at work is being misplaced.

One university student has shared with me recently: “When I see my professor during his office hours, I feel like I am bothering him, like he hates his job and he hates me for being there.” I refused to engage in that conversation, but thought that if that was what it felt like, then maybe it was true.

Most of us have been brought up to be very fearful of many things in this world, including “not getting what we need.” What that means differs from person to person, but most people have a job, a house, a spouse, children and money in that list. We all put a lot of time and effort into obtaining those items, and when we finally get them, we hold onto them for dear life, even after our time together has expired!

A stable, prestigious job, a good retirement plan, excellent benefits, numerous possessions… – our materialized desires bring us pride and satisfaction, but very quickly turn into our prisons…

How can anyone give up a 6-figure job, or tenure, or 100% medical coverage for oneself and all the members of the family, a big office with a window…? There are people who do that, but they are still more of an exception than a rule…

At some point or another in life, many people start feeling out of place – sometimes it’s called “a midlife crisis,” or “a calling,” or even “an awakening” – it becomes clear to them that their interests, passions and hobbies are very different than what they spend most of their daily waking hours on. They start remembering what they enjoyed doing as children, or maybe they discover a completely new interest or skill: photography, art, writing, dancing, playing tennis, growing flowers… – there are so many different things that make us forget about the rest of the world, that make us feel young, excited, carefree and happy again!

However, thoughts about a new direction in life, about a new career, are usually being disregarded as “unrealistic, irresponsible, childish and naïve.”

“Who cares about what lights me up and makes me feel alive when I have a family to feed, a mortgage to pay, credit cards to pay off, kids to send to college………?” – we tell ourselves and our friends.

And this is how we end up with an angry store clerk, an indifferent post office assistant, a boring lecturer, an unfriendly server, an annoyed teacher and so on. Many people hate coming to work every day, dread Mondays and do the countdown to Fridays every week. They feel stuck, trapped and bound hand and foot by their own and other people’s beliefs, promises and expectations…

One of the things that impacted me deeply while I was growing up in the Soviet Union was a famous poem by Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Here is the Russian (in case you happen to read Russian) and the English (this is my own, very free translation just to give you a feeling of it) versions of the poem:

Со мною вот что происходит:
ко мне мой старый друг не ходит,
а ходят в праздной суете
разнообразные не те.

И он не с теми ходит где-то
и тоже понимает это,
и наш раздор необъясним,
и оба мучаемся с ним.

Со мною вот что происходит:
совсем не та ко мне приходит,
мне руки на плечи кладет
и у другой меня крадет.

А той, скажите, бога ради,
кому на плечи руки класть?
Та, у которой я украден,
в отместку тоже станет красть.

Не сразу этим же ответит,
а будет жить с собой в борьбе
и неосознанно наметит
кого-то дальнего себе.

О, сколько нервных и недужных,
ненужных связей, дружб ненужных!
Во мне уже осатаненность!
О, кто-нибудь, приди, нарушь
чужих людей соединненость
и разобщенность близких душ!


Here is what’s going on with me:
My old friend doesn’t visit me anymore,
But all kind of wrong people come instead in idle vanity.

Meanwhile, my friend is somewhere else,
With some wrong people himself.
He also understands it,
Our separation is inexplicable,
And we are both suffering.

Here is what’s going on with me:
A completely wrong girl comes to me,
Puts her hands on my shoulders
And steals me from another girl.

Now, what about that other girl?
Onto whose shoulders is she supposed to put her hands?
The girl I’ve been stolen from –
In revenge – is going to begin stealing herself.

Maybe not right away;
Initially, she will live at war with herself for a while,
But then, unconsciously,
She will pick a victim for herself.

Oh, how many neurotic, sick and unnecessary relationships are there!
I can’t stand it anymore!
Oh, Somebody! Please come and break this cycle of people entering relationships with strangers instead of forming soul connections.


The poem is about not having the courage to be with the right people in our intimate relationships with friends and partners; however, similarly, we are often afraid to pursue our hearts’ desires and instead choose to keep the job that we know belongs to someone else – someone who was born to do it, who would be very happy to do it, who would do it lovingly and exceptionally well!

However, we choose to steal it from them by keeping it to ourselves, terrified to let go, bonded by the illusion of security with which it provides us, and at the same time feeling unhappy and unfulfilled. We carry this unhappiness with us wherever we go, too, making this world colder and more unfriendly for all of us.

Can you imagine how different our lives would be if everyone was doing what they were passionate about, what they loved and what they were good at?

Can you imagine that everyone you deal with during your day is in love with their jobs and is beyond happy to work with you: a store clerk, an office assistant, a lecturer, a server, a teacher, a doctor, a policeman, a toll booth operator, a plumber, a landscaper…? Can you imagine how everyone’s lives would be different if every one of us chose to do what we wanted to do, if every one of us chose to be happy??..

I remember years ago having a conversation with one of my friends right after I finished my graduate school and was looking for a full-time job. She said to me: “I am taking a class at this community college and the teacher has made me think of you. I know how much you love teaching and how good you are at it; this teacher, on the other hand, has never even given us a chance to find out whether she is any good. She’s just had her first baby, and she is never there – she’s canceled several classes already and whenever she does come to class, she is still not there – not in her mind or heart. She runs out of the classroom every time she gives us some assignment to call the babysitter and check on her child. I was watching her do that the other day, thinking, ‘Isn’t it ironic that a person who is extremely passionate about teaching is struggling to find a full-time job while the person who doesn’t want to be teaching at all, has one?..’”

I am not implying here that that teacher had the job that should have belonged to me – it shouldn’t have because it didn’t – but I would like to invite you to ask yourself whether what you are doing is your dream job. Is this how you would like to spend the rest of your life?

If it is – great! If not, here is a reminder from Dr. Seuss: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

Be happy and enjoy your time on this planet! If we all do it, this will be a wonderful place to be for all of us!


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