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Penned with Zen: Do the Shifrin shuffle

TNH Columnist

Published: Friday, February 14, 2014

Updated: Friday, February 14, 2014 00:02

For a long time, I have wanted to discuss a certain Russian Jew in this column. A long time is only a couple of months, but in newsprint that’s ancient history. Still, this person’s story should be so relatable to young adults that she merits another look.

Whether it was her moxie to walk out of her job, or her sassy dance moves, Marina Shifrin demonstrates an important lesson for us young adults before leaving the comforts of supervised life— I mean, graduate from college.

Seriously, if you do not know who Marina Shifrin is, just know she quit her job through a music dance video that has currently garnered 17 million views on YouTube. Know also that she had a journalism degree and was shifting between writing jobs in New York City. The latest job Shifrin held was at an international branch of a Taiwanese-based video news company, Next Media. When the NYC branch shut down, Next Media offered Shifrin a promotion— provided she would be willing to relocate to Taiwan. 

She did not like it. It was not the cultural shift, or the monthly mandatory 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. work shifts that got to her. Rather, Shifrin describes that the most frustrating aspect of her job was how her boss only cared about generating a larger audience rather than improving the quality of writing. After 11 months of being dissatisfied, Shifrin decided to quit: elaborately, too, with a video of her own. The irony of her resignation dance being the most popular video Next Media has probably produced is not lost upon Shifrin.

The general reaction I have heard from people is, “Can you believe the stones on this one? The nerve of her, just walking out of her job instead of toughing it out.” Truth is, no, I cannot believe it. I’m absolutely mortified about talking to a job interviewer and attempting to fool both of us into believing I’m capable of real world responsibility. Imagining walking out and throwing away that hard-earned job is incomprehensible to me now. It sickens me to read what I just wrote, to actualize and express a real, deep fear of mine.

Remember middle school and how crippling it was to be self-conscious then? Maybe you went to school dances and would tell yourself that tonight was the night you were going to ask your crush to dance to “Stairway to Heaven” with you, or do those impressive break dance moves you saw on television, in front of everyone. Did you always follow through, or did you bail at the last second, instead of facing the possibility of looking like a fool in public?

There is a sentiment going around that discusses how entitled we are as a generation. How the world is our oyster, and somehow every single one of us will be widely successful and wealthy. Apparently we are used to the easy life, and do not know how to work hard.  Perhaps Shifrin’s video is a perfect example of how we would rather complain than deal with our lot in life. Maybe she should have toughened up and buried her worries of being stuck on an unsatisfying career path, or at least done a better job of considering the implications of relocating to halfway around the world for a job she was not passionate about. Anything to avoid coming back home, bowed and defeated.

The naysayers do not seem to know – or have forgotten – what it’s like to be staring down the beginning of your professional life. Your career is not supposed to be the most amazing, profitable or humanitarian thing available to you. Believe me, nobody is above making a career working in a cubicle or flipping hamburgers. More, now than ever, people about to enter the workforce are encouraged to just ‘take whatever you can for money.’ Take the nice, safe option available to you in life. Just accept your lot and make the best of it. After all, it’s just a way to make a living.

We tend to forget that this ‘lot’ they are talking about is your life, and that’s what you should be concerned about. This time is yours— there’s nothing entitled about choosing to do what’s best for you. Shifrin reminds us that we do not have to just ‘deal with it.’ You are allowed to be self-aware, to wake up one day and realize you are unhappy and need to change something. Maybe the life decisions we make are not because we are above suffering through the drudgery, but because we are daring to believe in ourselves. I think Shifrin is fantastic because her story reminds us that, ultimately, we can choose what we want to do with our lives. It may or may not be the easy choice, but it should be the one you can live with. 

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