I have a twin sister, but we were born on different days. Throughout our lives, our parents worked hard to ensure that we were not grouped as a unit; in their minds, the fact that we shared a womb had no bearing on our ability to act and be treated as individual people. And it doesn’t. Whether it was pure luck or my mom’s greatest intentional gift to us (as she will claim), the fact that my sister was born before midnight and I was born after has profoundly impacted the course of our lives. Our separate birthdays have infused a sense of individuality into both of us from the very beginning, allowing us to retain our own identities. Yes, we are twins, but we aren’t “the twins.” We are Julia and Rebecca. It only made sense that when the first days of school approached, my parents continued this arrangement.
Parents of twins have a choice: place their twins in the same classes or separate them. Naturally, my parents elected to separate us, placing us in different classrooms in which to grow and learn independently of the other. Although one of the built-in perks of having a twin is never needing to face a new situation alone, our parents wanted to provide us with the space to become our own people. I am so grateful for that. As we enter our senior year and reflect on our time as students, people, and twin sisters, it has never been more apparent how much of a gift that decision has been. Thank you mom and dad.
Growing up as twins, Rebecca and I have experienced most of our milestones and achievements together, from first days of school and first days of camp, to becoming bat mitzvahs and getting our driver’s licenses. In many cases, the memories I lay claim to also belong to her, with our shared experiences outnumbering our individual ones. But when it comes to school, most of my memories belong solely to me, as our separate educational paths have rarely collided. We always had different teachers, we were always in different classes, and we were always happy that way. As twins, we have spent nearly 18 full years side-by-side, growing up in rooms next to each other, spending the summers in the same bunk at camp, coming home to the same house, and so on. Despite our love for each other, that is a lot of time to spend with one person. Going to school each day allowed us to spend healthy time apart, providing us with a place to be our own people (albeit in the same building). In fact, school is the only place where our individual memories, experiences, and stories outnumber our shared ones.
Spending our days separately and pursuing our educations independently of the other, my sister and I have been able to learn, grow, and prosper in our own unique ways. That time apart, that time to explore who we are without the influence of the other twin, has been essential in shaping the people we have become. For my sister and me, being twins has always meant going through life as our own people, just doing it next to each other. But as college approaches and my sister and I face being separated by a greater distance than just our bedroom wall, we are confronted with the reality that we must continue our lives as our own people, but not side-by-side. For the first time in our entire lives, not only will our educational careers be separate, but our entire lives will be separate.
For the first time in our entire lives, we will not be together.
As we tour colleges, write applications, and begin our last year of living together in the same home, I cannot help but wonder how different our lives are going to be without having the other twin a shouting distance away. Even though Rebecca and I have very different personalities and interests, even though we were happy to be in separate classes, even though we are both ready for this change, it is going to be a shock to live without her. I have never known life without my twin sister, and I know that I will have to cope with a Rebecca-shaped hole in my life. It feels like yesterday that we were walking off of the bus together after our first day of kindergarten, and now we are seniors in high school preparing to live our lives as independent people in college. While it feels surreal that time has passed so quickly, I am eased by the knowledge that my twin sister is experiencing these changes with me, even if she is not residing in the bedroom next door.
As we approach this new and exciting time in our lives, I realize that this is the first chapter of my story that will not feature my twin sister as a main character. But Rebecca, as we continue to write our narratives and live our lives, I want you to know that I am me because of you. You will always be an important part of my story, because you are an important part of me.