My daughter Emma, bless her heart, is good at introducing to me current lingo (although by the time I write this, it will all be, no doubt, out of date): “lit,” “HAM,” and, importantly, “squad goals.” If I understand “squad goals” correctly, it is the idea that one’s group has certain aspirations, either to be or to do. I’ll go with the explanation provided by Grammar Girl:
”Squad goals” can be simply the goals of your squad (your friends or your clique), but sometimes that seems to play out in practice as simply “awesome,” as in “This is awesome,” meaning “I or we want this someday,” or “We want to be like this.”
In the US—I don’t know about elsewhere, and I get mixed responses when I ask my Chinese friends about this—we like to make New Year’s Resolutions. Lose weight, read more, quit shoplifting, whatever. This generally seems to conform to the following recursive sequence:
- Make resolution for the new year
- Keep the resolution for a while (2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months)
- Break resolution
- Feel regret and/or guilt at 3) until New Year’s
- Make resolution for the new year
I make resolutions, but I’m surprisingly good at keeping them. Some handy suggestions for this successful strategy:
- Resolve to do things one already does
- Resolve to do things that one likes to do
- Resolve to do things that are ridiculously easy to achieve
No doubt, my reader would like examples. Well, okay then:
- I resolved last year to read 50 books. Since I read 50 books every year, this was achieved.
- I resolved last year to travel more. I like traveling, I found a way to pay for it (actually, I found a way for some of you to pay for it: your tax and tuition dollars at work), so this was achieved.
- People in front of me in line at the store are often challenged by math, by coupons, by natural language, by reality, and sometimes by all of these; I want to kill them. I resolved last year not to kill them. Since I don’t really think I could kill anyone, this was achieved.
Here in China, I spend a lot of time by myself. I have some good friends here, but everyone is busy, so I think this means my squad is what set-theorists would call a singleton, a set of one, or just me: 一个人. It’s okay; I’m good at keeping myself entertained, and those books aren’t going to read themselves. Plus I have a guitar and a mandolin, 10,000 steps to get in every day, Chinese characters to forget, courses to teach, writing to do: there’s a lot to occupy my time. So if I understand this correctly, my squad goals reduce to my goals.
(My daughter will be happy to correct me on this; she seems never to tire of telling people—including the Twitterverse—about my asking her what the “insult community” is, since I had never heard of the “incel community.” Of course, now having heard of the latter, I wish I had not.)
So my New Year’s Resolutions:
- Read 50 books
- Finish one philosophy paper, get a good start on a second one, and get a good start (~100 pages) on the book I’m writing. And finish writing the five songs I have started.
- Get better at Chinese, specifically listening comprehension
Otherwise, classes have concluded, except for grading the final assignments. I now have until February 17 to do whatever it is I do, which is mostly trying to write and to learn some new guitar and mandolin pieces. On February 17 I go to Taiwan for a week, to give a couple of papers, see an old friend of mine (a former student from Nanjing University), and check out Taipei. (Is it here that I’m supposed to say “Taiwan is and always has been part of China”?)
Then the next semester will begin in earnest, and I hope to as well.
A couple of final points:
I finally got to see the famous “Precious Belt Bridge” (宝带桥), originally built in 819 c.e.. It is a complicated but cool little piece of Suzhou history; for more details, see Koss, Stephen Beautiful Su: A Social and Cultural History of Suzhou, China (ppg. 62-64). And a major shout-out to my former student Danny—aka “Legend”—for helping me get there, which was surprisingly difficult.
I would also like to note that Neil Armstrong’s influence in the PRC is palpable. Over many urinals in China, one sees signs about one individual small step forward leading to profound cultural progress.
And for no particular reason, I celebrated my New Year’s Day with Italian food: a little mozzarella, some cornbread cake-ettes, and lasagna, from Il Milione (which is good, but not as good as MammaMia!, for those fretting about eating Italian food in Suzhou).