a journal for self exploration

Book Review: Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration by Meera Lee Patel

September, 2015

Start Where You Are: A Journal for Self-Exploration



By: Meera Lee Patel

Paperback: 128 pages

Publisher: Perigee (August 11, 2015)

Language: English

New on the shelves this August past is Meera Lee Patel’s book Start Where You Are.

Start Where You Are is a skillful combination of beautiful and playful watercolors, inspirational quotes, and exercises or prompts to help express yourself. The art is cute and kept simple, working perfectly in combination with the selection of quotes. Ranging from Ayn Rand to Yogananda, I found some of the quotes to be rather bland, but even then Ms. Patel’s brushwork succeeded in elevating the words to the height of their sentiment.

It is in this way that Start Where You Are is very much more than the sum of its parts. While I could summarize it as an engaging cross between a cute calendar and a self-help activity book – or perhaps an artist and a therapist – this would miss just how well the book is executed, how skillfully those parts combine. The whimsical illustrations of Patel’s watercolors encourage a doodling creativity and a freedom of expression. In fact, Start Where You Are is a great introduction to visual journaling itself. It would work well as a gift for someone who likes to express themselves visually, or someone who wants to but does not know where to begin. The exercises are perfect to break the ice when the empty page has become too intimidating on its own.

But the questions posed in the exercises can work as profoundly as you want them to. Subtitled a Journal for Self-Exploration, the book’s exercises work well as prompts for introspection and self discovery when taken with honesty. In this way, I really had to pause and think at, “Think of something you lost recently. What are two positive insights you gained from the experience?” As ‘loss’ can be a profound word and ‘recent’ is in relation to the loss, ‘keys’ seems like an dishonest easy answer. When loss is profound, insights that are positive may require seeking.

While there are drawing, coloring, and free writing exercises, most of the activities consist of lists of one type or other. This kind of self cataloging, “Write down ten big dreams that haven’t come true yet” and “What are your three most frequent thoughts? What do you wish they would be?” can endear this book to younger adults still defining themselves or the habitual magazine survey taker. Conversely of course the questions, when taken seriously, become more profound with age. Who did I think I would be at this age? Who do I think I am now? How do my values match up with my daily choices and where I actually spend my time.

These questions are as difficult as you allow yourself to get away with. But with color, maybe disguised in casual drawings, maybe they can be less threatening. We are all in the process of charting our own inner landscape, and Start Where You Are is a great tool to document the journey and an encouragement to smile.