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Resolutions yes, but Long Islanders have hopes for so much more in 2021

Newsday spoke Wednesday to Long Islanders as they

Newsday spoke Wednesday to Long Islanders as they looked back on 2020 and set resolutions for the new year.  Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

Dix Hills resident Carol Barbieri’s New Year’s resolution boils down to one word: patience.

Barbieri, 53, whose family owns Italian markets in North Babylon and Wantagh, said anyone searching for evidence of how the coronavirus pandemic upended daily life in 2020 would find it in her stores. Some customers carried the emotional weight and stress of the pandemic with them while shopping, leading to confrontations, Barbieri said.

"With COVID and owning a business, it’s been brutal," she said. "I’ve been learning to breathe, rein it in, let it go. That’s like my goal. Let it go. Stay calm. Be patient."

Barbieri and other Long Islanders shared their resolutions and hopes for 2021 with Newsday. Despite a year punctuated by a deadly disease that shows no signs of ebbing; masks, vaccines, political divisions and social strife, somehow, optimism about the future and hope for better days ahead fueled many responses.

Some Long Islanders vowed to spread kindness amid more tough times surely to come, while others set a more personal goal for the new year — quitting smoking.

Yet while pondering what personal improvements they hope to make, most seemed less focused on their own resolutions and more interested in rekindling family relationships or helping others, with the sacrifices of so many in 2020 serving as guideposts of how to be better in 2021.

Isabelle Lonegan, a retired nun with the Sisters of St. Joseph in West Islip, said she knows life will improve in the new year. Why? Because a divine power is at work, she said.

"Nothing sad and difficult is permanent," Lonegan said. "There is always, somehow or another, an opening in the end because God is at work in the world."

The charitable work and acts of kindness from others during the pandemic has inspired her, Lonegan said.

Her resolution, she said, is to "reach out and volunteer again and be with people serving" after the dangers of the coronavirus subside.

For Branden Lee, 21, of Syosset, he hopes to run "at least once a week" in the new year. But the senior at Boston College studying biology learned something from the old one — a lesson missing from a university course syllabus — the importance of personal kindness.

"It opened the door for us to act with more compassion," Lee said of the pandemic. Front-line workers were an inspiration, he added.

"With a new administration coming in, with people continuously fighting for justice, and just seeing all the front-line workers, working so hard over the past year, I’m very hopeful that America will come together, and we’ll get over this tough time together," Lee said.

His girlfriend, Chani Lieu, 19, of East Meadow, said her resolutions are to stay healthy physically and mentally and continue working hard in college. Lieu, studying environmental science at Adelphi University, said she wants to stay "motivated in school and just keep trying to take care of myself from day to day."

Thrift store worker Jaylin James, 21, said 2020 taught him the importance of staying connected to family and friends because "you just never know next time you’re going to see them."

James has learned this lesson up close. His great grandmother has colon cancer.

"Because of COVID, I’m scared to hug and kiss her," he said.

As far as resolutions, the 5-foot-7, 105-pound Hempstead resident wants to bulk up in 2021 because he's "very underweight."

Other people’s pain in a year marked by unimaginable loss put Natalie Niemczyk's blessings in perspective, said the Holbrook resident, 33. Niemczyk, who has a 1-year-old son, said the pandemic made it possible for her husband to work from home — time spent together as a family.

Niemczyk, an avid runner who has competed in races ranging from 5Ks to marathons, said she intends to aid other runners in a physical therapy business that will open in early 2021.

"I hope to help all runners all over Long Island get through injury, and injury prevention, and coaching, strength training, things like that."

"Happy and healthy," Niemczyk answered when asked her resolution for 2021.

Like many across Long Island who faced hardship during the pandemic, Emily Wong, 19, of Hicksville, had her share.

Wong’s mother lost her job, she said, but 2020's trials taught her to "keep pushing, even if you don’t want to" during challenging circumstances.

When asked if she’s hopeful life will improve in the new year, Wong hesitated before sounding an optimistic, if not cautious tone, about what's to come.

"I don’t want to jinx it because I hear everybody talking about it and I’m not about to be that person," she said. But, Wong acknowledged, "low key" she wants "things to be better."

She kept her personal resolution simple: "just to be happy."

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