The Empty Suitcase: A Journey into the Peace Corps

alicepettwayphotoTrading a carob energy bar for your best friend’s onion rings isn’t an easy task at seven. Neither is explaining why you don’t have cable or air conditioning at your house.

Most of my childhood was spent trying to comprehend why my mother wouldn’t just conform, make things simpler. I couldn’t understand her willful denial of all things normal. I vowed to one-up her. I would do it all, be it all. Creative and financially successful. Glamorous and intelligent. Adventurous and responsible. Above all, I would be normal. I would be everything I wanted to be and still fit in.

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So, I studied poetry in college but always had a reasonable job. I got my M.F.A. in creative writing but started my career in advertising. I bought the car, the house, the clothes and wrote and volunteered in the few hours I had left. I clawed my way up. I managed people. I came into the office on Saturdays, and Sundays. I got phone calls from factories in China late in the evenings. I was a grand success. And then they fired me. I have never been so relieved.

Read about Alice Pettway's journeys at Women's Voices For Change.

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