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I went epically viral for quitting my job on YouTube

Marina Shifrin is a writer living in Los Angeles. She recently signed her first book deal, but it still hasn't sunk in. The book probably won't be out for a couple of years, so in the meantime follow her on Twitter for jokes and stuff.

19 million people watched me quit my job — here's what happened next

"Craftie" is the first and most important industry term I learned when I moved to Hollywood. It's short for "craft service," a service which provides grumpy production staff with M&M's (both peanut and regular), chips, cake, brownies, cookies and 50 other junk-foody snacks which have made my clothing shrink… or my body grow? Whatever. I don’t care about my body.

Recently I was heading to craftie for the first or 10th time when I ran into Max. Max is a strikingly tall 20-something with a symmetrical face and California vibe. We've been working together for almost a year, which is why I was thrown off when he looked at me with bug-eyes and exclaimed, "I'm sorry, I didn't know who you were!"

"Huh?" I was confused because he saw me that morning. We talked about dogs. Max definitely knows who I am.

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"Kathleen showed me your video," he continued.

Just like that, all the clarity I needed came rushing in — everything became so sharp and shiny. I immediately grew embarrassed, not knowing how to react. Max was referencing a video I posted to YouTube three years earlier. A video that, at its peak, got 19,782,906 views, before being taken down by Kanye West due to copyrighted music. Obviously it wasn’t Kanye West himself who took it down, but that’s how I like to imagine it in the retelling of this story.

I knew Max was being friendly, but frustration seared through my body. “That’s not who I am,” I wanted to scream, “That’s a fragmented and manipulated internet version of me!” But I kept my mouth shut.

In the video I am doing a strange, angular dance to Kanye’s “Gone.” I am bouncing around my office with a kind of frenetic energy not typically associated with office behavior. At the end, “I QUIT,” flashes across the screen.

The internet version of myself is brash and impulsive. The real-life version of me obsesses over every decision, but I’m still kinda brash.

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The story about why I chose to quit my job with a YouTube video is layered and complicated. If you have a couple of hours and buy me a couple of drinks, I’ll tell you every sordid detail. The TL;DR version of the story is that I wanted to get out of a bad situation.

Although I had a feeling the video might get a lot of views, I never expected the outpouring of love and support it brought me. My silly and flippant dance moves resonated with people across the world. Some of them had bad jobs, some of them had bad bosses and some of them, self-admittedly, had bad lives. All of them, however, reached out to tell me they were inspired to make a change.

Would I do it over? Hell yes. Knowing I had a positive impact on one person, let alone thousands, makes it a million percent worth going viral. Would I do it again? Of course not. I struck gold, and I’m too smart to think it’d happen again.

After the video went viral, I moved to Los Angeles because I wanted to be a comedy writer. I wanted my words to be said by attractive actors and repeated by lonely teenagers. I wanted my writing to make people feel loved and warm. That video helped entertainment people see the fun and creative side of my personality. As a comedian, it brought a lot of attention to my personal website and blog, which was the best advertising a person who wants to get into entertainment can ask for.

Los Angeles is not exactly a cheap city, but I’d saved up a year of pay before leaving my old job. I did this purposely because I didn’t want to accept the first job offer that came my way. I wanted to wait until I found the right fit.

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I spent a year reading about screenwriting, meeting more established writers, writing sketches, writing scripts, writing love letters, writing nonsense, just plain writing. I took part-time jobs here and there, but nothing permanent so that I could continue working on my own words and projects. I treated myself like a startup business. I was to grow slowly so that I could build a solid foundation. My previous foundation was built on insecurities and inexperience. I wanted my new one to be stable and confident.

When I wasn’t writing or networking, I was crying in different bathrooms around Hollywood because freelancing is an endless tunnel of stress, instability and sadness.

One day I heard they were hiring at Comedy Central — my dream network. After two bad interviews, one good interview, five months of sending annoying emails and a little bit of begging, I got a job offer. That’s where I work today. I am a writer for the digital team and an eater for the craftie team on a show called @Midnight. I still spend nights and weekends writing and just sold a book proposal, which has opened up a new world of anxiety. But this stress, unlike my previous one, is catalytic and motivating.

Strangers still reach out to ask if I am content now. The answer is “no.” But the thing is, the answer will always be “no.” If I were content, that’d mean I was done growing, learning, changing. It would mean I could stop being so obnoxiously ambitious. And I don’t want to do that. Ever. In a way, being discontent is when I am most in my zone. I’ll always be pushing harder, going for bigger, wanting more.

It took a while to get over the weird magnifying glass virality held up to my life. I rarely think about that night I spent bouncing off the walls, well, unless someone brings it up.

“Oh, that thing?” I finally answer Max, “Yeah, that was me.”

“I didn’t know I was in the presence of such greatness!” Max joked.

I wanted to tell him that I’m not greatness. I am just another young person trying to figure out her place in the world. But instead I awkwardly bowed and headed over to craftie.

Before you go, check out our slideshow below:

19 million people watched me quit my job — here's what happened next
Image: Eugenio Marongiu/Getty Images
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