Two minutes can make a world of a difference. For two minutes, I was an only child. It was just “me,” not “we”. Then one hundred and twenty seconds later, my twin sister Maddie was born. As toddlers, we were inseparable. We had matching toothless smiles, and wore the same dresses with colorful bows in our hair. Although we appeared innocent and sweet, we were secretly mischievous partners in crime. We used to open the door to our fridge and climb in it, or cut each other’s bangs, and tear the wall paper off the wall in our room. We learned to walk and talk much earlier than most and we would have conversations with each other in our own language. Being a twin was like having a built- in best friend.
As twins, we share many similarities. In high school, we were both extremely dedicated athletes. My swim schedule and her tennis schedule required a lot of commitment and hard work, and we each often had to forgo weekend partying for competition and practices. But we were always passionate about our sports and enjoyed competing at a high level. We shared a lot of commonalities; but most of these were artificial- and only came as a result of the fact that we lived in the same house, under the same rules, and had the same routine.
Although we are very similar, Maddie and I were never the kind of twins that were tied at the hip. Other than the fact that we had the same birthday, we are polar opposites. We are different heights (she’s 5 inches taller than me, wtf), we eat different foods, we dress differently, and we have different talents. I’m the bookworm (read: nerdy), whereas she is artistic (the cool one). I’m more outgoing when I meet new people whereas she can be quiet and shy. I’m more of a type-A personality whereas she is carefree and relaxed. I’m studying business within the very structured curriculum at Wharton. Maddie is studying art and psych at Brown with absolutely zero required courses (thanks Penn).
Fast forward to college… Maddie was recruited to play tennis for Brown, and I walked on to the Varsity swim team here at Penn. Freshman year during competition season in the fall of last year my partying was limited to the occasional Saturday night. I became really close with my teammates who still remain my best friends. Maddie traveled almost every week of her Spring season and even had to sit out of her spring weekend to play a match. We bonded over the rigidity of our schedules, our mutual passions for hard work and dedication, and our love for our respective teams. Yet, we also noticed that aside from our sports and school life, our experiences at school could not have been more different.
Our lives in college did not at all reflect our lives in high school in which we operated on seemingly parallel schedules. Of course we were separated geographically, a five-hour Amtrak ride separating my house in Philadelphia from her dorm in Rhode Island. But the separation was more evident in that the freedom of college made us finally able to embrace our personal differences. Now that we were able to make our own choices, we could create our own identities. For examples: our social lives started to differ pretty dramatically. This was partly because we didn’t have the same default friend-group anymore, so we obviously didn’t hang out together with the same people every weekend like we used to. But we also started to make different choices in how we want to socialize. This came as a result of the different social environments at our respective schools (as Penn as a bigger Greek life for example), but it is also representative of our individual preferences. I joined a sorority and gravitated towards smaller groups and less of the typical “college party” scene. My sister on the other hand rejected the sorority experience and spent a lot of time with various athletic teams at Brown. She also enjoys the ‘nightlife’ and may be still awake at 3am on a given Saturday while I am fast asleep (which is why I don’t respond to her texts). Aside from the social aspect, we’ve also made different choices in terms of what clubs and extracurricular we wanted to get involved in, and other general lifestyle choices (i.e. Housing, food, the basics).
I guess being away from my twin has forced me to be independent in more ways than I would have anticipated. It’s also made me realize that learning to be separated from her is not just about finding what I enjoy/ my own identity, but also about being ok with being alone. And I don’t mean alone as in lonely or isolated or by myself all the time; but alone as in not having that “built in best friend” or default person who’s always there when I need her. Alone as in having to actually decide what I want to do on a Friday night and make social plans for myself instead of relying on Maddie to text our friends for me. Alone as in not having her room right next to mine and being able to walk in and tell her about the funny buzzfeed quiz I just found that she needs to take, or about the cute boy who I can’t believe just liked my Instagram.
People often ask me “How do you like being a twin?” Or “what’s it like not being with her?” It is almost impossible to explain what being a twin is like. Even though today we are no longer the smiling and inseparable toddlers that we used to be, and we’ve traded in our similar lives in the same house for our own individual pursuits in different college environments, we still share the same bond. Being away from her and not talking to her every day can definitely be hard, but it’s also positive in a lot of ways. At the end of the day I would not trade being her twin for anything, even though it would be nice to have my own birthday, just for once.