By this point we’ve all read, heard and seen that, whether we like it or not, 2012 is here with a vengeance. Along with the start of a new year comes the pressure to make a resolution. My confession: I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution. I don’t believe in them and, honestly, I feel like it’s just another way for others to substantiate our internal fears. We should all try to be our healthiest, fittest, most honest and most charitable selves, without pressure from strangers.

However, for me, this year is different. During 2011 I had my first hugs with new babies and my last with loved ones; I attended weddings and funerals; and (I think) I grew up a bit. Since this year feels different, I decided to start it differently and finally made a resolution: To give back. I don’t just mean giving back to New Orleans, though that’s a large part of it, but also giving back to my family, my friends and myself. Below are my thoughts on “giving back” and ways in which you can, too.

Community: It’s a trifle self-serving, but my favorite way to give back to New Orleans is by attending the fundraisers thrown by its nonprofits. As editor of St. Charles Avenue, which among other things documents New Orleans’ philanthropic fundraisers, I have a leg up in this, but there are so many worthy groups doing so much for New Orleans and almost all of them throw a great party (FYI: The cost to attend these ranges from the price of a night out to out-of-the-ballpark for most). Therefore, since my pocketbook can’t stretch to encompass all of the groups to whom I’d like to donate, I also plan to give of my time and efforts.

Here are my “Top 5” events that I’m looking forward to for February and March:

• February 4, “Soul Revival 2012,” benefiting the Legacy Donor Foundation, 558-8900
• March 2, “Lark in the Park,” benefiting Friends of City Park, 483-3947
• March 10, “A Night to Make it Right,” benefiting Make it Right, 620-3200,
• March 22, 18th annual “Ball in the City,” benefiting the United Negro College Fund, 581-3794
• March 23, “Julia Jump,” benefiting The Preservation Resource Center, 581-7032

Family and Friends: In March, I will be getting married and will officially be part of a new family. Though merging traditions can be difficult, I’ve loved getting to know them and becoming part of their lives, as they have become part of mine. Thanks to wedding planning and all it can entail, I’ve also gotten to spend more time with my family (who live in Texas) and hope that I can continue seeing them more often. It seems like as I get older, all of the things that my parents do that used to embarrass me so much now make me so happy that they’re them and that I’m lucky enough to still have them as such an important part of my life.

My maid of honor and I often refer to our group of friends as our “chosen family.” Though I came to New Orleans not knowing a soul, I now have a closely knit group of people with whom I can truly be myself, and I’m so thankful that they’re here. My fiancé and I have resolved to get together with them more often; not only in large gatherings but also one-on-one (see you Friday, Todd and Brittany).

Myself: I am known to those who love me as someone who “burns the candle at both ends.” For instance, two years ago I joined Massage Envy to make certain that at least once a month, I would take an hour to do nothing but pamper myself. As of today, I have 10 outstanding appointments. So, I have resolved to step up even that little amount of time. My fiancé and I are scheduling bi-weekly “dates” during which we will turn off our phones (and not check email) and spend at least one uninterrupted hour with no distractions but each other. I have called Massage Envy and scheduled an appointment and, this is going to be the hardest for me, I have promised myself to take one hour for me a week to do whatever I want (play video games, watch a stupid movie, read or just relax in a bath – that last is my favorite).

Living Uptown has its perks, and Mardi Gras is a big one. As we look forward to parades, balls and parties, let’s (try to) not forget the promises and resolutions we made at the beginning of the year.

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? I’d love to read in the comments about them and how you kept them.