For the last five years, I have been toying with the idea of publishing my letters from my Peace Corps service. I started by typing them up without editing. Then, I waited. When I went back to them this past month, I had to type them up again, and I did a little more research. I found that my memory of life’s events isn’t always accurate, and I am glad to have these letters to help keep things in perspective. As someone who has studied creativity, psychology, and communications with an emphasis in journalism, I know that memories aren’t something we recall. Instead, they are things that we reconstruct through the lens of who we are today.
I was reminded of this gently after I had published “My Life in the Projects.” My sister and mom both told me that we found One-eyed Jack the cat in Albany not in the projects. After thinking about it some more, that made sense. My mom started her nursing school in Albany. She did have some medical training in California, but I don’t know if it was enough to save a cat who lost his eye and may have gotten an infection. Still, in my memory, Jack was in the car with us when we traveled north to get away from government housing. Fortunately, I billed “My Life in the Projects” as the mostly true story of living in HUD housing in the 1980s.
I wanted “My Life in the Peace Corps” to be more accurate than “My Life in the Projects.” By sticking to the letters, I was ensuring that the events in the book happened in the way that I perceived them at the time. Still, there are some things that are missing even from the letters. There could be several reasons for this. I may have had a lack of time to write them down, they may have been too traumatic, or the letter may have gotten lost in the mail or in one of the many moves these letters have been involved in.
In the process of trying to find those letters, I found out where my memory betrayed me again. I had a friend in college, with whom I have lost contact. I always thought it was because of a disagreement we had in college. We had a bit of a confrontation, and I guess I took it hard. For me, that incident had ended our relationship. However, looking through my letters that were sent to me during my Peace Corps service four years after college, I found that he had written me at least three times. Clearly, that confrontation didn’t end our friendship; we just lost contact somehow. Our memories are fallible, and I wanted to present a more truthful version of my Peace Corps experience.
That isn’t to say that “My Life in the Peace Corps” is without flaws. Like I said, there are some important stories that are missing from it, like how my host brother in Senegal and I spent our afternoons while I was learning French, what happened to the rooster at the vacation village, and the time I got stopped by the police. I guess I’ll have to save those for the sequel or future blog posts if I don’t find my journals from my service.
“My Life in the Peace Corps” will be released on Dec. 28, 2020 in eBook format on Amazon. I will try to publish the paperback on Amazon about that same time. If you want to get it quickly, watch my Facebook page for a link. If you want an autograph, you can pre-order the paperback on Penguinate.com. As soon as I get some copies, I will sign them and send them out. This process will take longer than ordering directly from Amazon because I have to wait for Amazon to ship them to me and cannot order them ahead of time.