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Reflecting on things past and things to come

It's that time of year again -- the time when many of us are recovering from yet another manic holiday season.

We survived the throngs of people at stores and malls; waited patiently (and impatiently) for parking spaces; wrote and revised holiday menus; checked and re-checked multiple lists; swore off buying one more thing only to turn around and buy 10 more things; and traveled to places near and far to be with family and friends.

With the holidays behind us, it is now time to bid adieu to another year and in that process, to reflect on things past and things to come.

We proudly make declarations about the future in the form of New Year's resolutions, promising to do this but not to do that -- all in pursuit of becoming a better person. Many of us remember how far we have come in such a short period of time, while others wonder just how we ended up exactly in the same place we were during this time last year ... and the year before that.

What is truly wonderful about the New Year is that it is an opportunity for us to start anew. We don't have to comb through a calendar or survey our friends and family to have an actual date to do something differently. January 1 is perhaps the most hopeful day of the year and is a benchmark to measure outcomes in our lives.

As I reflect over the last year, it has been truly amazing. I fulfilled my life-long dream of traveling to South Africa and made it there twice in one year. Never did I imagine that I would be able to participate in the first public servant's strike post-Apartheid, nor work with children in rural schools and orphanages. My romanticized trip became very real, living in a place where the average life span is 38 years of age and 3 out of 4 are HIV positive.

In spite of challenging health and economic obstacles, I found that South Africans had a strong sense of self, will to live and learn, and willingness to give. Children that were poor economically were rich in spirit. Their self-esteem was high and intact because they did not measure themselves by things but by spirit and productivity. In that space, I learned a lot about the people and the culture and more importantly, about myself.

Last year when I promised myself that I would make it to the motherland, I did not know that I would experience this beautiful place in such an extraordinary way. In addition to my travels, I also said that I would increase my income, spend more time with my family and find love. I did all of those things, and unexpectedly reconnected with some of my college buddies, one of whom lives next door to me.

I opened up my heart and calendar to a new set of friends, whose company is appreciated and adds value to the overall quality of my life. I did find love, but did not consider that it would be with someone who defines love differently from me. This year, I resolve to let love find me with someone who defines it in the way that I do. Other wonderful things happened, like the birth of a niece, who is adorable, and finding a new best friend at age 35 -- my 4 year-old nephew, who is smart as a whip and loves his Auntie.

Some of the great things that happened to my friends and family include the purchase of a new home, being granted tenure at an Ivy League institution and an HBCU, the birth of a child after years of trying, the sale of a business that had become cumbersome, the start of college, the decision to go to law school and business school, and the decision to chuck comfort for a new city and job. Some of the not-so-great things that happened include the diagnosis of a sister/friend's mother with stage IV breast cancer, the loss of a best friend to cancer, the loss of a home, the loss of a marriage and the loss of a true love.

Life is an interesting journey, and resolutions help us to define what we want and where we want to be in the coming year. Resolutions remind us that we can always hope for something more, but sometimes we may get something less -- which may or may not be a good thing. They help us to remember that as much control as we have in and over our lives, in some instances, we have none.

Let's resolve to make 2008 better than last year, to be prepared for whatever may come and to continue to move onward and upward in our hearts, minds and the quality of our lives.

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