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Not a list of resolutions, a list of promises

A new year started just a couple of weeks ago. People celebrated what for many means the opportunity of new beginnings. With the New Year comes, for many of us, the hope of new achievements, new plans and a fresh, new start. And, also for many people, the New Year brings new challenges and struggles that can be faced with newly acquired strength and determination. It's like the New Year brings an air of possibilities, faith and a new perspective.

For me, the New Year represents another chance to reflect upon the previous year's actions, to review my attitudes and to evaluate what helped me and those around me achieve our best, and what didn't. The New Year, as every new day should be, is an opportunity to re-evaluate ourselves — a chance to be proud of our contributions that have made this a better world while also taking a look at what we can do better.

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To do better in the upcoming year, we need to think not only of ourselves, but also of those around us. We can make the world better by giving our best to others. Many people make a list of resolutions, usually focused on losing weight, getting a degree, getting that dream job, or making the trip that's been on hold for quite some time. Those are all great resolutions — after all, we need to take care of ourselves — but we should also make some resolutions that will contribute to making the world around us a place of which we can be proud.

That's why, instead of a list of resolutions, I prefer to create a list of attitudes and promises that I will commit myself to in this New Year, attitudes that will represent my small contribution to trying to shape a better life and a better world.

I promise to rescue those dreams from the past and understand that it is never too late to work on a dream, because a dream only comes to reality by action. Do not stay away from your dreams because you think it will be very hard to achieve them; it will be harder to live life knowing that you didn't even try or didn't try hard enough.

I promise to understand that I am only human and that those around me are only human, too. We have flaws; we will make mistakes; we are not perfect. Therefore, why would I expect perfection from others when I am not perfect either? We can forgive each other and learn from our mistakes. I promise to understand — and help others understand — that this is a diverse world and it is OK to be different. This would be a very boring world if we were all the same, and we can all learn new things from each other. I want others to accept me the way I am and I know they want the same from me; why do we need to change something that is not wrong, but just different?

I promise to forgive and forget. There's no point in reliving the past; what already happened can't be changed. Forget it, forgive it, and move on. I will fix my wrongs and say "I am sorry" because I don't know if I'll ever have the chance to make it right again.

I promise to always give my best, but expect nothing in return. We feel the greatest joy when we give; it is by giving that we become greater and more complete, for we have contributed to making another life better. Try to leave a mark on those who cross paths with you; make them remember you and leave your side having learned something from you.

I promise to live every day as if it is the last one; I will enjoy every sunrise, every raindrop, every breeze, every chocolate bar, every one of my kids' smiles, every kiss, every hug and even every "hello" or "good morning" coming from a stranger. I promise to share not just what I have left, but also what I really want, because by letting go of our attachment to material things, we can begin to appreciate the things we have.

I promise to cry when I have to but also to laugh often; both processes heal our hearts and help us to appreciate every day for what it is — a new chance.

I also promise to love my family with all my heart. Love is the one thing we never run out of, so why be cheap with it? "All you need is love," remember? Love everyone, smile at everyone — even those who you are unsure of smiling to — because those are the ones who probably need it the most.

And I promise to look back at my list when I feel like my year is not going as I planned or when I feel I am not strong enough to go on.

I invite you to make your own list and your own promises. It will make your life, and the lives of those around you, a bit better.

Marta Cruz-Alicea writes every other week for the Life & Times section of the Carroll County Times.

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