What I Learned About Love and Life from Russian Literature

What I Learned About Love and Life from Russian Literature

Stepping out of my comfort zone:


At Emory University, you're required to take a class your freshman year called "Freshman Seminar". This class is meant for you to take a step out of your intended major, to take a class that you are truly interested in or a subject you might be interested in pursuing in hopes you'll broaden your horizons and find something that you are truly interested with.

Freshman year of college, I was beyond excited to begin taking classes in subjects I truly enjoyed taking- gone were the days of high school environmental science that consistently put me to sleep, of calculus that I knew I would never use again, and various electives that were there just to fill the space. I was sure that I wanted to pursue an economics major, and didn't see the point of taking any classes beyond that. I saw the suggestion for the freshman seminar, the one that said that it was suggested that you take a class outside of your major- disregarding that, I was fully prepared to take the Trade and Finance Freshman Seminar.

However, when class registration rolled around, I was devastated to learn that the economics Freshman Seminar I had wanted to take filled up. Since the seminar was a requirement, I reluctantly signed up for the first one that fit my schedule- Ethics in Russian Literature.

I showed up to the first class, wary and annoyed that I was "being forced" to take this class, assuming that I would be bored to tears every Thursday for three hours- surely there must be a better way to spend my time?

Much to my surprise, I loved the class. I loved the subject, the teacher (Mikhail Epstein, an acclaimed writer of many books and theories on Russian Literature), and the expanding world view on literature I gained from that semester. Thanks to my step outside of the economics curriculum, I was able to experience literature beyond my previous notions of what literature was (I had always been a bookworm) and developed a passion for the study of ethics, Russian literature and European history.

Reading about the intricacies of the Russian Revolution as it intertwined with the stories Russian authors painted, the human tragedies and emotions depicted in the novels people painted and even reading non-fiction accounts of experiences over history- it helped me confront my long-standing ideals and morals and pushed me to rethink how I saw the world. Anna Karenina, written by Leo Tolstoy, incentivized me to really reflect on what it meant to have a true identity.

Three Generations by Alexandra Kollontai pushed me to examine my own idea of love, to ask myself how the idea of love and hookups and feelings changed over time and culture. Ew by Gregory Zamiatin helped me consider the role of perfection in our society and the things that make us human. Additionally, by connecting to a culture that I have absolutely no roots nor prior knowledge in has allowed me to cultivate more love for the world in general. It has encouraged me to want to learn more and to go outside of my own cultural bubble in order to continue to expand my mind.

Before, I thought there was a path that I had to stick to in college, classes that would ensure my future success. Russian literature taught me that college was a time to explore and find things and subjects to love- things that stick far beyond your 4 years.

Popular Right Now

7 Phrases You've Been Misquoting

That doesn't mean what you think it means.

It's an ancient tradition, words of wisdom passed down in short phrases from one generation to the next. The problem with this is that sometimes, things get switched around and the original meaning is lost. We often misquote famous phrases without even knowing it. In fact, do you know that the most famous misquote is from "Apollo 13"?

Thankfully, we have the internet, where there is always someone there to fact-check you. These phrases look a little different when you get to see the whole picture.

1. Blood is thicker than water.

The full saying is actually, “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb." Basically, it means exactly the opposite of what most people think. It refers to the idea that the bonds you choose to make can mean much more to you than the ones you were born into and don't have much of a say in.

2. Curiosity killed the cat.

This phrase continues: “but satisfaction brought it back." This makes sense, considering the whole idea that cats get nine lives. I often heard the first half when I was little and asking too many questions, but the full phrase suggests that there is no such thing as too many questions.

3. A jack of all trades is a master of none.

This saying got cut short as well and originally said: “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one." Unlike what our version would lead you to believe, having multiple interests but not being an expert in anything could actually prove advantageous.

4. Great minds think alike.

“Small minds rarely differ," is the following line to this once reassuring quote. I would advise you try not to think about that too much the next time you and your classmates are on a roll with your group project, sometimes phrases get cut short for good reason.

5. Money is the root of all evil.

Again, the original version is a little longer. This biblical phrase originally reads “The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil." There's a difference in making more money than you could possibly spend and keeping it.

6. My country, right or wrong.

This is often used to justify supporting bad wars, the original actually says “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong to be set right." This puts the responsibility on the citizen to make sure their country is a good one, not the other way around.

7. Starve a cold, feed a fever.

I've only heard this a couple of times and it could have multiple meanings just by reading it differently. Not only is it terrible advice, but it's also poorly quoted. The original states “if you starve a cold, you'll have to feed a fever." Now, that's advice I can take to heart.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

An Open Letter To Myself At 15

This is an open letter to myself about things I wish I had known at 15.


Dear Hailey,

You are so loved. I know times might be hard, but it will all be okay. It's okay to ride the fence and be unsure of what you want to do with your life. You're going to change your mind 10 more times before graduation anyways. Also, don't worry about all of the things that you can't change. You can't make someone fall in love with you or make her treat you like a better friend. It's okay for people not to fit in your life. Stop bending over backward for people and live for yourself. In a few years, you will go through so much, but you come out on the better side. You are going to be successful and driven. Also, learn what the meaning of "self-care" is. You need to do a lot of that in the upcoming years. Mental health is more important than anything. Also, quit cutting your baby hairs. They will never get longer so you need to embrace and love them early on. Figure out what you can change, and what you cannot. Most importantly, accept what you cannot change. When you decide that you are ready to face the things that you can change, do it with your whole heart. That doesn't mean complete perfection. It's important to know the difference. Start by making a plan for the future. Write it down, memorize it, do whatever makes it the easiest for you. Think through your plan logically, take into consideration your strengths and weaknesses. Remember to do the hard things first once in a while, the relief is sweet in the end.

You are ready.

You are young.

You are smart.

You are beautiful.

If you ever feel that you are at your lowest point, just remember the only place that you can go is up. Find reassurance in the weakness. The best is yet to come. Don't take pity on yourself. Instead, work harder to make your situation better. Be happy. There are so many things to be thankful for. Ask when you need help. No one can read your mind. Time won't stop for you. Worrying and stressing is simply a waste of time. Be strong and know that you are in God's hands. Everything will work out. It may not be today or tomorrow, but eventually, the pieces will fall into place and you will understand why things had to happen that way.



Related Content

Facebook Comments