Dasha was born and raised in Russia, moving the United States when she was sixteen. She is now a sophomore at USC but still more closely identifies with Russian culture. She shared with me a common Russian proverb that her mom often says to her (which she typed for me on her computer since I don’t speak Russian) and translated the phrase to English.
“Бо́гу моли́сь, а добра́-ума́ держи́сь. Translated literally, it means trust in God, but steer away from the rocks. Meaning, I guess, mmm…. have faith in God and pray and all that good stuff but you can’t just hope that good things will come to you and like surrender all responsibility over what happens. Ultimately, whatever happens, you’re in control.”
This proverb is very similar to a saying my mom often will tell my sisters and me. Growing up and even still, she will say, “you’re the master of your fate and the captain of your soul.” She usually tells me this when I am faced with what I believe is a seemingly impossible task to remind me that with hard work and focused effort, I can achieve anything. Other times, usually when I am complaining about a bad grade or having played poorly in a basketball game, she tells me this proverb this to remind me that in order to accomplish something, I must take the initiative and really fight for what I want, and that had I done this, the results would have turned out better.
There is a duality inherent to both of these sayings: when something goes right in life, it is because you did that led to this good fortune. Inversely, when something goes wrong, it is usually due to bad decisions or lack of effort prior to the event. While sometimes circumstances are out of your control, few things occur due to sheer luck, good or bad. Your fate is in your own hands.
I never realized until this project, but the proverb my mother often is actually almost directly taken from William Ernest Henley’s poem “Invictus.” This poem possesses many of the same themes of the proverbs discussed in the analysis above.