4 New Year’s Day Journal Activities (and tips for keeping your resolutions!)

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope that 2018 treated you all well and that 2019 will be even better. For me, 2018 was a pretty average year– it wasn’t too bad, but it wasn’t extremely awesome, either. However, I did follow through on ten of last year’s non-musical resolutions (out of eighteen… but I’m still proud of myself– some people only have one and they still don’t reach it) and experienced a lot of new things, so I’m going to count it as a good one.

In 2019, I’m hoping to follow through on at least twelve of the non-musical half of my resolutions (I will have 38 total), and I think that I may be on track. If you are someone who struggles to keep it up after January, then these prompts might just help you!

LIfe in g major

Journal Prompt #1: Gratitude

It is easy to get caught up in the false dichotomy of a year either being good or bad. I mean, just scroll through Twitter for five minutes and the amount of “I want to die” tweets will outnumber the “I made so much progress” ones.

If you are someone who had a bad year at face value, give yourself a few minutes to think about everything you have to be thankful for. It can be as big or little as you want, and remember to have fun with it! Just as you may be thankful for your family and friends, you can also be thankful for tacos.

Journal Prompt #2: Collage

You can make a collage out of anything you want– theatre programs, magazine papers, sheet music– you name it. Just use something that is meaningful to you, and there is no way that you can go wrong.

A creative idea that I tried this year was keeping the majority of my 2018 retail receipts and then collaging the ones from special occasions (e.g. a receipt from going out to dinner on my friend’s birthday) while providing a small sentence explaining the relevance of the receipt.

Journal Prompt #3: Year-in-Review

Isn’t that the thing that Spotify does at the end of every year? The thing that always lies about your top genre? And says that The Cheetah Girls is one of your top artists but you only listened to them like, five times this year?

Well, it can also just be a list of things that happened in the year. I typically focus on the good things, but you don’t have to. Anything that was relevant to your growth as an individual is worth putting on the list.

Journal Prompt #4: New Year’s Resolution(s)

Everyone and their mother has a resolution, but are you making one that is achievable?

First, look back or try to remember last year’s resolutions. Which ones did you succeed with and which ones did you not? If you succeeded (e.g. resolved to read ten books in the year and followed through), then challenge yourself to do it again, but this time upping the requirements (e.g. twelve books instead of ten). If you did not succeed, check to see if you gave yourself a clear way to measure (for example, “I want to maintain a 3.5 GPA” in lieu of “I want to maintain a good GPA”). If you didn’t, then do it this time around! If you did and still didn’t succeed, then lower your expectations slightly. For example, if you have never been able to get a 4.0 and it’s been your resolution every year, you may become discouraged. So, maybe lower your expectation to 3.8 and see if you can achieve that. If you do, raise your standards the next year and build your way up to that 4.

Do not make resolutions that are dependent on another person. Obviously there are some exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, try to make it so that the only person holding you back from achieving your goals is you. Don’t give yourself the “they didn’t pull their weight, so it’s not my fault I failed” excuse. Likewise, do not resolve things that you cannot control. Don’t resolve that you will no longer be single this year when there’s an entire other person involved who has to fall in love with you. While it could happen (and I am PRAYING it happens to me), there is no possible way to work toward it on your own.

Keep looking at your resolutions throughout the year to assess your progress. You may reach some of your goals without even thinking about it!

Don’t be too strict. For example, I am trying to be more punctual for social events; however, I know that simply writing “I will be on time” is going to get me nowhere. So, instead I wrote “[I will] arrive on time [or] within five minutes of start time.” This will help me to ease into it and stay encouraged as I focus on my progress.

BONUS Journal Prompt: Life Update

This prompt is just like any entry that you would normally write; just remember to include the date, your current age, year in school if applicable, a brief idea of what a typical day is like for you, relationship update, realizations, career update, current obsessions, and maybe even a little bit of your five-year plan.


Well, that’s all I have to say! Real images from my journal are below. Are you someone who usually achieves all of their resolutions? If so, tell me how you do it in the comments! If you liked this post, then please hit “Like,” feel free to follow me on here, and you can also follow my Pinterest (@hopeezell5), Instagram (@hopeezell) and Twitter (@TheAfroAlto).


15 Things You Should Know Before You Turn Twenty

1) Your social security number.

You would be surprised how many college freshmen don’t know theirs. When you’re in high school, there’s no shame in having to ask your parents for your information. However, once you become an adult, it becomes an expectation that you have these numbers memorized. You will be asked for it when you apply for credit, FAFSA, jobs, and more.

2) How to save money and build credit.

I am currently making minimum wage at my home job ($8.15 in Ohio) and $12 an hour at my job in Cleveland. I also have bills (Spotify, medical, tolls, music lessons, gas, and more) despite living with my parents. However, I manage to keep at least a few hundred dollars in savings throughout the year, and a couple thousand during the summertime. Whereas I know people who make up to twice as much money as I do (and also live with their parents, paying as few bills as I do, if any) who constantly complain about not having money. Where is their cash going?

It’s going to buying new cars straight off the lot, new shoes, acrylic nails, makeup from Sephora, lingerie from Victoria’s Secret, weed, and the latest iPhone upgrade when their current phone is only a year old.

What they don’t understand is that a large part of adulthood is making sacrifices. While that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t enjoy things, you need to understand when something is hurting your finances and compromise. If you like getting acrylics, then restrict yourself to getting them to celebrate special occasions. Buy your makeup from Ulta. Wait until your phone starts giving you problems before you buy a new one.

Some of the ways I love to save: Making a shopping list one week in advance and then allowing myself to purchase a luxury item a week or more later, no-spend months, keeping a piggy bank of all extra cash at the end of the month, hiding birthday money between books on my bookshelf.

3) How to write a professional e-mail.

The more professional your e-mails look, the more likely you will be told “yes.” Really. This is another thing that you’d be surprised that not many people know how to do.

4) How to speak/understand a foreign language.

Not everyone has access to good foreign language classes in their school, but your local library may offer classes. I took French classes at my library in third grade, and although I only stuck with it for about a month, I can still remember pretty much everything I learned AND it helped me learn other Latin-based languages at a faster rate. I am almost fluent reading Portuguese, and I only started studying it seriously about a month ago.

5) How to write a resume and cover letter.

Luckily, my high school drilled this into our heads during eleventh grade. My school wasn’t much help in writing a performing arts resume, but I still am kinda great at it.

6) How to use social media to your professional advantage.

I know it’s tempting, but do not make every other tweet about how much you need a blunt. It’s a little safer if you don’t use your real name, but I still wouldn’t advise it. In fact, I wouldn’t even post about alcohol unless I were of age– on my Instagram, I have one picture of red wine, and I was in Ontario, where I am of legal drinking age.

But even more than what not to do, make sure you’re friending your classmates and professors. You may find information on job prospects, auditions, scholarships, summer programs, and other projects through them.

7) When to leave a job.

I have friends who have been at their first job for seven or more years, and I also have friends who can only keep a job for seven months. I personally have been at my first job for three years, and I would like to leave it someday (my position is one that people are expected to quit after a few years to move up in the system or move on). However, I know that most employers are not as willing to keep employees who are gone for extended periods of time, so I am planning on keeping this job until I graduate and have found a full-time (or at least higher paying) position.

However, I have friends who will leave a job almost on a whim because they’re not happy. And then bills start piling up because they’re unemployed. Always, always wait until you have a better paying job before you put in your notice for your current one. Always.

8) Your alcoholic limit.

You shouldn’t be drinking at all before you’re twenty-one (in the U.S.), but… let’s be real. You probably have. So. You need to know how to pace yourself. And whether you’re trying to get drunk or not, always make sure to drink a cup of water after every alcoholic beverage you have.

9) How to respectfully disagree with colleagues and superiors.

I have disagreed with my colleagues on several things, and I make sure to voice my opinion because I am not paid enough to blindly follow rules that I think are pointless. So long as you are kind with your words and have good timing, you should voice your concerns. You never know if you’re right.

10) How to drive or catch the bus/subway.

If you live in the suburbs or a rural area, you need to save money for a car and get a license. If you cannot afford to drive, make sure you know how to ride public transit.

11) How to cook.

There are 20-year-old Big Macs with no mold on them. I think you understand what I’m trying to say here.

12) How to swim.

Swimming is an important life skill, and one that I truly believe one should learn how to do before they turn five. I, unfortunately, am a very weak swimmer and will likely be one for the rest of my life; therefore, make sure you know how. And make sure your future children know how from an early age.

13) How to make important phone calls.

I like to pretend that I’m my mother whenever I call corporations or other important people, and it almost always makes me sound more confident and Certified Adult-like.

14) How to make a five-year plan.

Wanna quit your job? Wanna go to college? Wanna go to Brazil? Make a plan and learn how to make it happen.

15) How to maximize productivity to reach your goals.

Learn when the best time is for you to wake up, when to take naps, which times of day you’re at your peak productivity, how to break a technological addiction, and how to stick to a routine. Future You will thank you.

03 (1)

Did you like this post? Then please like, follow, and pin this on Pinterest. You can also follow me on Instagram (@hopeezell) and Twitter (@TheAfroAlto).

Lessons Learned Freshman Year: The Ultimate Packing List

I’m going back to college in a couple of weeks, and I couldn’t be more excited! Looking back on my freshman year, I have been making lists of what I used in my dorm last year and what I will need to take or leave behind this time around. Therefore, I thought, why not share this information with the incoming freshies? If you’re attending school in the Northeast, are an education major or musician, or just a girl on a budget, this is the list for you.

the ultimate college packing list

Everything you will need with you can be broken down into these categories: Supplies & Books, Clothing, Decor & Bedding, Hobbies, Toiletries, and Adulting.

The inner part of something; the inside. -the interior has been much restored-. Synonyms- inside, inner part, inner area, depths, recesses, bowels, belly; More antonyms- exterior, outsid

1. Supplies & Books

  • Highlighters
  • Thin-tip multi-colored marker set (Education majors; these are expensive)
  • Post-it notes and bookmark tabs
  • Construction paper (Education majors)
  • Black pens
  • Folders
    • One folder for each class.
  • Composition notebooks
    • I recommend one composition notebook for each class. Not every course you take will require you to take notes, but you can still use it to write essay outlines and make study guides.
    • These type notebooks are best for lectures.
  • Spiral notebooks
    • I recommend these for mathematics, music theory, solfege, and other lab-based courses where you might have to turn in your written work.
  • Crayons (Education majors)
  • Agenda/planner
    • The Day Designer is king.
  • Dry erase board/marker
    • I used this to write cute little messages for my roommate (e.g. “Going to Kent State for the weekend- see you Sunday!”) or to sit on top of the washer in the laundry room (“Waiting for a dryer- please do not remove my clothes!”).
  • Textbooks
    • There isn’t really a way to forget this. I added this to the list just so I could have an excuse to say that you should shop at Half Price Books. My tonal harmony textbook (which will last me two years) would normally cost over a hundred dollars. I got it for $12.
  • Calculator
    • I originally packed a TI-84 and didn’t need it. My college algebra class (that I tested out of in a week and a half) didn’t allow it, and my elementary school class didn’t need it. A normal calculator will likely suffice, unless you are a math major.
  • Tape
    • Masking tape
    • Clear tape
  • Laptop
    • ASUS is the devil! Cheap, but the devil!
  • Books
    • I tried to pack non-fiction and classics, with a few exceptions. And yes, I did actually have time to read. I believe I read five or six books last year.
      • Fullmetal Alchemist vol. 24-26
      • Pride and Prejudice
      • The Secret Garden
      • The Life and Works of Paul Laurence Dunbar
      • Morality and Contemporary Warfare
      • Anthem (Ayn Rand)
      • The Last Days of the Romanovs (Helen Rappaport)
      • The Romanov Sisters (Helen Rappaport)
      • Julius Caesar
      • Iris Has Free Time (Iris Smyles)
      • Of Mice and Men 
        • The only classic book that had me in my feels at the end. Like why did Steinbeck think that was… okay?
      • The Case for Christ (Lee Strobel)
      • I Am Malala
        • I read this book whenever I don’t feel like studying, and it motivates me again.
      • My Bibles
        • English Standard Version
        • New International Version
  • Devotionals
  • Journal
  • Headphones
  • Choir folder (Vocal musicians)
  • Pencils
    • Even if you hate pencils, you will inevitably have to take a scantron test.


2. Clothes (what I personally packed)

  • Pajamas
    • 2 onesies
    • A few T-shirts
    • 2 pairs of soft pajama pants
  • Pants
    • 3 pairs blue jeans
    • 1 pair colored jeans (pink)
    • 3 pairs athletic shorts
    • 2 pairs black Spandex shorts
  • Undergarments
    • 7 push-up bras (I’m a B; don’t judge)
    • 2 T-shirt bras
    • 2 strapless bras
    • 1 backless bra
      • Didn’t need it.
    • 2 thongs (is this TMI? Probably)
    • Seamless underwear
    • Yoga panties
    • Period panties
    • Black tights
    • Brown tights
  • Shirts
    • Tank tops
    • Blazer (for presentations and field experiences)
    • Sheer shirts
    • Sweaters
    • Blouses
    • Graphic tees
  • Skirts
    • 2 maxi skirts
    • 1 pencil skirt (for presentations and field experiences)
    • 4 church-y skirts
  • Dresses
    • At least 10 sundresses… I own more dresses than all of my other clothes combined
    • 3 maxi dresses
    • Black dress
      • Floor-length for vocalists and cellists
      • Any length for instrumentalists
    • A few homecoming-style dresses, in case of attending any parties
  • Socks
    • Athletic
    • Fuzzy
  • Shoes
    • Black heels (Vocalists)
    • 2 pairs flats
    • 1 pair tennis shoes
    • 1 pair rain boots
    • 1 pair fashion boots
    • 2 pairs fake Uggs (hear me out: at 8 a.m. on a January Cleveland morning, these are like heaven)
  • Scarves
  • Belts
  • 2 coats
  • 2 hoodies
  • Jewelry


3. Decor and Bedding, a.k.a. the fun part.

  • Pictures, paintings, and/or drawings
  • Command Strips
    • These take more elbow grease to remove than you would think, so use them with caution.
  • Victoria’s Secret bags
    • Everything looks cute in a Victoria’s Secret bag. Cotton balls, nail polish, tampons…
  • Christmas lights (I’m basic, I know)
  • Magazines
    • I made a collage on my desk.
  • Washi tape
  • Shoe organizer
  • Footlocker
  • Rug
  • Long mirror
  • 2 sets of sheets
  • Comforter
  • Sleeping pillows
  • 1 sham pillow
  • Decorative pillows
    • Sleeping on a loft bed, I would highly suggest not bringing these. They made my bed less comfortable, if anything.
  • Stuffed animals
    • I had a stuffed Appa, Naga (Korra’s polar bear dog), and Minnie Mouse, and I was not made fun of for it. I lived.
  • Tiny table (to hold up a small fridge)
  • Blankets/Snuggie


4. Hobbies

  • Your musical instrument of choice
    • I brought my acoustic guitar because once again, I’m basic
  • Sketch book
  • Art supplies
  • Sheet music and anthologies
    • Even if you’re not a music major, at my school, anyone is allowed to use the practice rooms. Sometimes I’ll spend the night in the Con playing the piano.
  • DVDs
    • I brought:
      • Avatar: The Last Airbender boxed sets of all three seasons
        • These were the DVDs I watched the most. Otherwise, I mostly watched Netflix.
      • The Legend of Korra: Book One
      • The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
      • Big Hero 6
      • Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo
  • Crafting supplies
  • Fitness
    • Leotard (Gymnasts and Dancers)
    • Swimsuit
      • Even if you’re not on the swim team, check the pool hours for open swim.
    • Water bottle
    • Muscle braces
    • Earphones
    • Sweatpants
    • Wipes
    • Towel
    • Gym bag


5. Toiletries & Medications

  • Makeup (in order of how I put it on)
    • Concealer (a few shades lighter than my actual skin tone. I use white people concealer and I’m not afraid to admit it)
    • Brow liner
    • Foundation
    • Eye liner
    • Eye shadow
    • Highlighter
    • Powder
    • Blush
    • Setting spray
    • Mascara
    • Lip balm (you really should be using this at night but okay)
    • Lip liner
    • Lipstick
    • Lip gloss
  • Face wash/scrub
  • Toner
  • Moisturizer/lotions
  • Nail polish
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Curl cream, oils, whatever you put in your hair…
  • Hair ties
  • Shower caps
  • Bows, headbands, bandanas
  • Razor
  • Nair
    • You may think I’m crazy for this, but I use it on my eyebrows.
  • Nail clippers
  • Hair cutting scissors
    • Do not, I repeat, DO NOT use normal scissors to trim your hair. Hello, split ends.
  • Cotton balls/Q-tips
    • You’re really not supposed to use Q-tips to clean your ears. I have temporarily lost hearing so many times because of this… and yet… I keep using them…
  • Shower gel
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Flat/curling iron
    • I didn’t even bother packing this because I don’t use heat on my hair.
  • Blow dryer
    • Another thing I didn’t actually pack, but I figure some people might want to.
  • Sponge/loofah
  • Robe
    • Honestly, it was easier to walk back to my dorm wrapped in a towel. I was never there when fire drills happened, so I might have just gotten lucky. But yeah, if you’re not self-conscious about your body, you really don’t need a robe. Especially if you actually have your own bathroom.
  • Towel
  • Combs, picks, brushes…
  • Tweezers, whatever you use for hair removal…
  • Spray bottles
  • Deodorant
  • Pantie liners
  • Pads
  • Tampons
  • Medications
    • Nasal decongestant
    • Vitamins
    • Tums/Pepto
    • Acne cream
    • Naproxen/Ibuprofen/Acetaminophen
    • Excedrin
    • Insulin/meds that can save your life
  • Tissues
  • Perfume
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Shower caddy


6. Adulting (a.k.a. the not as fun part)

  • Driver license
    • Even if you don’t bring your car, you still kinda need it…
  • Military ID (if applicable)
    • Where student discounts fail, military discounts save the day.
  • Vehicle registration
    • Remember to have this renewed by the birthday of whoever legally owns your car.
  • Social security card
    • An FYE classmate of mine had their parents mail their card to them because they weren’t planning on getting a job on campus. However, being a music major, they were required to provide their financial information so they could play for paid gigs. Luckily, I got my work-study job details handled at orientation, but this student wasn’t so lucky. Their identity wasn’t stolen, though, so it ended up okay, I guess. But yeah. Don’t mail your SS card.
  • Health insurance card
    • I ended up in the ER with chest pain, and this came in handy.
  • Laundry detergent
  • Hamper
  • Laundry basket
  • Car maintenance
    • Get your oil changed
    • Get your battery checked
    • Get your tires pumped
  • Parking pass
  • Fan and/or air conditioning unit
    • In my dorm last year, we had no A/C. I have allergies, so I applied to have a unit installed. Naturally, the university said my allergies weren’t “real” allergies and denied my request. How did that go for me? Well, I did actually get sick during week of welcome. And I was miserable. And hot.
  • Proof of military benefits (GI Bill, Chapter 35, etc.)
  • Food and cooking supplies
    • Apples (they like, never go bad or attract fruit flies)
    • Plastic forks/spoons/knives
    • Napkins
    • Straws
    • Juice/soda
      • Drinks in the dining hall are unnecessarily expensive, so bring a few cold ones to crack open with the boys. And I’m talking about soda.
    • Paper plates
      • My dorm last year didn’t have a kitchen (Baldwin Wallace students, just don’t live in Constitution, okay?), and I was not about to wash my dishes in the communal bathroom sink.
    • Peanut butter
      • Make sure your roommate isn’t allergic.
    • Chocolate
    • Candy
    • Pickles
    • Garlic butter, Chick-Fil-A sauce, ketchup, BBQ, etc.
    • Salt and pepper
    • Soul food seasoning, Lawry’s, Creole, etc.
    • Mug/thermos
  • Alarm clock
    • There were multiple times that my phone’s alarm didn’t go off and I paid the price for it.
  • Tax stuff…
    • I would say more if I knew anything about taxes, but I don’t, so…
  • Retail membership cards
  • Cash
    • Digital money can’t buy everything. I try to keep at least $30 cash on me at all times, especially since parking in Cleveland is expensive, and sometimes, you can only pay in cash.

…And that concludes this (very long) list! Do you think I missed anything? Tell me what YOU packed for college in the comments!