MY OTHER HALF
Photo by Lauren Lu
I turned to the direction of the person calling out my sister’s name. He was a friend I had known since freshman year, and even though four years should be more than enough time, I guess I could see why he would get confused. He had G1 and B4 with my sister and G4 and B1 with me. To most people, determining my identity was like a game with a fifty-fifty chance of winning, and that’s how I reassured most people who found telling my sister and I apart a difficult task.
I have two names: one was given to me at birth and the other was pushed upon me in what some would call an inevitable way. But I’m used to responding to both Sreeti and Sriya. It’s just something I do.
As a twin, I am used to sharing. I have shared just about anything and everything I have: clothes, jewelry, toys, friends and most importantly, my identity. I am usually not considered a single individual, but rather, half of a pair.
I will admit we made it rather easy to combine our identities; we took the same classes, did the same volunteering activities, played the same instrument and took lessons together, to name a few. With that came even more names resulting from the combination of our two names – Sriyati, Sreetiya, the Ravis, SriSri and anything else that people could come up with.
Earlier this year, someone pointed out to me that I unknowingly start most of my sentences with “we,” even when only referring to myself. As I made a conscious effort to speak only for myself and about myself, I struggled to refrain from using “we.” Our two separate lives have essentially merged into one and now we’re heading our separate ways for college.
My twin sister and I are similar in many ways, but, believe it or not, we are different in even more ways. We are two different and separate individuals. Individuality is an idea that is strongly emphasized at school, but how can I be me, with my own identity, when for nearly 17 years I have been mistaken for my sister? Do I have my own identity or am I just one piece of a two-part special?
With only 29 days left until graduation, I recognize that I still do not completely know who I am as an individual. For the past 17 years, I have hid behind the identity of a twin, and now it’s suddenly being taken away. Do I dig through the last 17 years and try to figure out who I was or do I move forward and try to figure out who I am through college?
I have thought about college numerous times, and it’s strange to not picture the person I’ve spent almost every moment with until now there with me. I will be on my own next year, and my identity as a twin will be nonexistent, which is why I intend to make the most of these 29 days and as much of summer with my twin sister. While we will be miles away from each other and our identity as twins will become much less relevant, I know that our bond will stay just as strong, and we will always be there for each other. There will always be more comfort in the presence of my sister, but it’s time for the both of us to rediscover ourselves as individuals.
Even with so many unanswered questions, I wouldn’t change anything. I have no doubt that most people will remember us as “the Indian twins” or just twins in general. It has played a much bigger role in my life than I ever imagined it would throughout high school, but in the end, I don’t think I mind. Being a twin has gifted me with the relationship I now have with my sister, and the few things I had to give up were worth it. I may have lost the ability to define “me” as an individual, but in the process, I was able to clearly define a part of who I always will be — a twin.
“Okay, are you Sriya or Sreeti?”
Another person, same question. Before I realized it, my identity had become a mere guessing game. This one question has become such a large part of my life, bigger than I could have ever imagined.
Up until high school, I never noticed or felt that being a twin affected me in any way. Growing up, we did everything together, from hanging out with the same friends to going to singing lessons. We had taken the same classes throughout middle school, never thinking we could do – or would do – separate things. To me, she was just like any other sibling. Being the same age just meant it was easier to do the same activities, take the same classes and work on homework together.
High school was when I really saw how much being a twin had shaped my life. With my individual identity meshed with my sister’s, I had no way of distinguishing myself from her. When it came time to create a resume, we typed one together because we had done essentially everything together. Realizing I wanted to pursue a career in the business field and she in the medical field, we spent the summer of 2014 apart for quite a while. For the first time, I was on my own, surrounded by people who were oblivious to my identity as a twin. According to twin expert Dr. Joan A. Friedman, it can be hard for twins when they go their separate ways because when it comes to developing an identity amongst a new group of people, being a twin suddenly doesn’t matter as much. For me, it was weird to be asked about me, not us.
My mom always told us that we’d miss each other a lot when we left for college, but we brushed it off nonchalantly, thinking it wouldn’t make a difference. I never thought that being away from each other would be hard, but I realized at the camp how much individuality I had lost over the years. Being a twin gave me a barrier to hide behind. Even if someone didn’t know me by my name, I was always “one of the Indian twins.” In my head, that meant people were talking about “the twins” and not actually me, giving me some reassurance. At the camp, I was forced to realize that being a twin had become my safety blanket. Unknowingly, I had thrown away a large part of my identity.
Unfortunately, my time with this safety blanket is running out. At the camp, I was forced to step out of my comfort zone and experience being just me. Friedman said twins sometimes struggle when meeting new people on their own for the first time because it’s different from being constantly asked about being a twin. I went from being asked “Are you Sreeti or Sriya?” to questions that were just about me.
Now that it’s May and I know for sure my sister and I are going to different colleges—I, IU, and she, Case Western—I’m beginning to realize starting college on my own will be a struggle. There’s something comforting in knowing that my sister can take one look at me and know exactly how I’m feeling, and I can take one look at her and know how she’s feeling. As Friedman said, many twins find it hard to not have their twin around mainly for that reason and can get frustrated when they don’t seem to have the same connection with a new friend they make. For the past 12 first days of school, I’ve been Sriya “the twin”, but now I’ll just be Sriya. It’ll definitely feel weird and take a while to get used to, but I know I’ll still have my sister by my side, just not literally. Being a twin will always be a part of my identity; it’s pretty impossible for it not to be. But I think it’s time we experience being just Sriya and just Sreeti. As individuals.
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