Official Review: Becoming Guided Journal by Michelle Obama

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Have you ever tried putting your thoughts on paper? If yes, how did that go? If no, what is stopping you from doing so?

I cannot remember exactly when I started having a journal, but I cannot recall a time when I did not have a book and a pen with me. Whether I am traveling, going to church, attending an emergency class, or just watching an afternoon movie, I always have a journal near me. Sometimes, even two of them. They have become like an extension of my life.

But it is not every time that I journal. I have gone on for months without writing a thing. Well, that is almost a lie. I do ever have a second notebook where I list tasks to be done, short goals to score, and once in a while, state a long-shot dream. In the process, I will throw in a few scattered thoughts because why not. Perhaps what I mean is, that I have had long gaps in-between where I have not sat to pen down what’s on my mind, laying bare my true feelings, not just as an afterthought but as an intentional activity. This is because journaling is not always easy.

There are experiences that I wish to never remember. Some are too embarrassing that I would die if someone read them out loud. Then, there are the few ones which years from now, I will look back at and smile, even if they made me cry when they happened. Journaling is a game of uncertain odds. And I do not always win at it. This, through a gift from a stranger, I am learning is okay. Journaling is not about winning and having the perfect story. It is something more, much more!

Becoming Guided Journal by Michelle Obama is inspired by her bestselling memoir. It is really unlike the many journal books I bought from the bookshops or picked from the supermarket shelves over the years. It begins with a personal letter from Michelle. In this note, she describes how she began journaling, what events led to it, and eventually, what circumstances drove her to stop. She regrets the times when she talked herself out of writing what she was thinking and feeling. She also notes that it is not just the heavy stuff that should take centerfold of the writing. Did you know that you could journal what your coffee tasted like this morning?

I think the hardest thing about journaling is feeling like there is nothing important to say. Nothing noteworthy unless something major occurs. This could include the rare light-bulb moments, huge wins, personal losses and failures, and big dreams. The lesser eventful aspects of life are regarded as minute and crammed somewhere in the back of the head. The Guided Journal swoops in to solve this problem most fascinatingly and daringly possible. For the next how long, you are taken on a journey where you examine the small and the big, the interesting, and the mundane, appreciating how each has led you onto the path of BECOMING YOU. Consider it a solo vacation through several time dimensions of your life!

The journal is filled with questions of all kinds. Some I find funny i.e. Describe a memorable dinner. What did you eat? Did you eat at home or somewhere else? I say funny because it never occurred to me to keep tabs on such. Now I cannot decide which is which. Some are thought-provoking i.e. Write a letter to your future self, outlining your expectations for the years to come. Some are weird i.e. What was the biggest news headline on the day you were born? Is it something that is still relevant today? Some are nostalgic i.e. List your ten favorite movies. Some are deep i.e. When were you last flung into new or uncomfortable terrain? How did this sudden change affect you? What value did it bring to your life?

Each turn of the page promises a new experience different from the next. Scenarios that never mattered before suddenly mean something more. The best part is that you never know what to expect. Today you could speak about your first love, and tomorrow, you will be describing the tree or the grass outside your bedroom window. This takes journaling to a whole new level that I never imagined possible.

Favorite Questions:

Though each question demands various degrees of attention, honesty, time, feeling, and perspective, here are some of my favorites so far:

  1. What transition are you going through today? Do you feel ready for it?
  2. Where did your story take a sudden turn?
  3. Write about a time when you felt carefree.
  4. What does self-care mean to you? How can you take more time taking care of yourself?

If I am being honest, I really cannot exhaust them all!

Favorite Quotes:

Also, the Journal Guide contains more quotes than any other book I have ever encountered. They are spread out in such a manner that is both deliberate and meticulous, unlikely to overwhelm. I like this about the guide because it gives me enough time to ponder over each before coming to the next. Though I could list all of them as my favorites, because they are, I will only give a few.

If you don’t see that your story matters, chances are no one else either. So even though it isn’t always easy, you need to find the strength to share your truth. Because the world needs to hear it. – Michelle

Failure is feeling before it becomes an actual result. It’s a vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then is escalated, often deliberately, by fear. – Michelle

The other thing that I am loving about this book is that Michelle shares a playlist of 30+ songs. It delights me whenever I discover that I know some of the songs beforehand. I am like, “The one and only Michelle Obama knows this song too?” Finally, the journal guide comes with a hardcover which gives it quite an exquisite feel. It makes my story feel all the more important. I do not know-how. It just feels like that.

I recommend this journal guide to everyone who has known joy, laughter, pain, sadness, failure, victory, loss, regrets, hope, and hopelessness. I recommend it to anyone who has experienced things they wanted to say out loud but never had the courage to, struggles to unravel the tangled thoughts in their head, wants to be aware of life happening around them or simply, wants something to look back to in ten years. This journal guide is for everyone, regardless of their presence or lack thereof of prior journaling experience. As Michelle says, “Your story is the most powerful part of who you are – the struggles, the failures, successes, and everything in between.” So, own your story, write it, and continue becoming!

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