Double Rainbows – Twinning in College

Eighteen years ago, my parents trudged through heavy downpours during their two-week hiking trip to British Columbia. As often follows torrents of rain, two delicate bands of pastel hues adorned the gray sky as they came to the water’s edge in Vancouver’s Stanley Park one afternoon. My story begins with that double rainbow: two majestic arcs of soft glowing colors suspended in the sky as if plucked from an imaginary world.

That day, the double rainbow my parents marveled at foreshadowed my existence—only, at the time, they had no idea that 2 weeks later, they would find out they were pregnant with twins. Identical twins.

For most people, starting college, or any new beginning is a lonely endeavor.

For most of my life, I’ve never felt this type of loneliness. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been separated from my identical twin sister, Grace. It’s been nearly 2 decades since my parents marveled at that double rainbow, and I met my best friend. From the neonatal intensive care unit to now, here at Duke, we’ve been through life side-by-side, in every sense of the phrase. Our twinship dominates my identity.

So naturally, orientation week at Duke was filled with the classic phrase chain, “I just met you… Grace, right?” and then, “No way, that was your twin?” which was usually followed by, “I wish I was a twin.” Yup. The first week, month, even semester, was marked by our new peers and friends mixing us up. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be known as Liv, instead of Liv & Grace… or, more commonly, the Haywards. And it’s not that I don’t like that, I do. It’s just that the concept of being known individually seems foreign.

Ever since we were little, we’ve been friends with the same people. As self-proclaimed “floaters” we would sometimes float to different people separately and then introduce our new friends to each other. Although I’ve always felt comfortable spending time with my friends without Grace present, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the twin-ergy we give off when we’re together. We, quite literally, feed off each other’s energy. Given we are two naturally spirited individuals, it’s almost too easy to egg each other on. As much as “double the trouble” is cliché, it is also true. When we’re together, we’re our true selves. It’s hard to explain, but I feel a sense of comfort knowing Grace is with me. In conversations, it’s common for us to seamlessly finish each other’s sentences, share glances that carry meaning without needing the words to accompany them, and usually if one of us starts laughing, it’s virtually impossible for the other to stay serious.

As hard as it is to believe, Grace and I were very close to applying early decision to separate schools. If admitted, this notion of individuality would have been a lot less foreign. But I don’t think either of us was ready to split just yet. Of course, it’s in our cards to live separate lives, but not yet. The athletic, academic, and social obstacles I’ve faced at Duke would have been far more challenging if I didn’t go through them with Grace by my side. There is something remarkably special about having a deep, authentic appreciation of exactly who we are to each other. The phrase “I wish I was a twin” that I’ve heard countless times since starting college is one that consistently reminds me of the gift that is our twinship.

It’s easy to compare twins, especially when they’re identical.

Read that again and tell me that isn’t the most ironic statement. We are as identical as it gets and yet, constantly compared. It sounds wack but I kind of get it. Because we are so alike, there is this desire to find a difference. We’ve heard the phrases “who’s faster, who’s taller, who’s smarter, who’s more outgoing, who’s funnier.” We’ve even been victims to arguably the worst of them all, “who’s prettier.” While we usually let these comments pass, it would be unfair to say they don’t affect our relationship. I sometimes ponder the answers myself. I wonder if the people who ask these questions also answer them with their friends behind closed doors?

What other people say, I’m certain will never cut too deep though. Because in my heart I know that we aren’t competitors fighting to be the “faster, taller, smarter, funnier, prettier, more outgoing” twin. We’re sisters who make each other better and build each other up despite what other people say. And our closest friends will admit, if you spend enough time with us, we’re different people with unique personalities who just happen to look strikingly similar.

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