“It is what it is”
KY is an 18-year-old American Student at USC. She grew up in North Carolina. I asked her if she knew any proverbs or commonly said phrases and she told me this one. Her interpretation of it is, “People would say it whenever something happened that might be stressful or might not be what the plan was supposed to be, and you just shake it off and go with it.”
This proverb is one I’ve heard often and is used in similar contexts to what my informant described. When something happened that was a bummer but there wasn’t anything that could be done about it, we would say “it is what it is” to signify that what happened had happened and nothing could be changed about it so it was best not to worry. Proverbs like this are a good example of vernacular authority, where people can look back on how insignificant some small issues in life were now that they are older. This proverb specifically shows us that while the past is important in this culture, it is much more important to look on to the future and control things that can be controlled since they haven’t happened yet instead of dwelling on things that can’t be changed.