Note: I’ve received permission to write about this subject.
I’ve asked myself this question how many times, but do you ever wonder what your younger, more ambitious self would think of you right now? If you’d have told little me that at thirty-two, I would be staying with my twin instead of being the actor/writer/whatever I wanted to be (or at least independent), I might’ve been embarrassed enough to say my first curse word.
But it’s just the way life needed to turn out. (Isn’t that the case, like, 99.9 percent of the time?)
But let’s be honest.
Is living with your twin an ideal situation for a thirty-two-year-old? No. Not in the eyes of society — or at least the one I grew up in. (Even if this place is ah-ma-zing.) Like so many of us, when I first came here to this “unideal” situation, I worried what others might think. For a bit anyway. Most importantly, I worried about what my past self might think.
I can’t speak for you, but I imagine younger me would be feeling many things. Though little Evie would expect to be a fully-fledged adult by now, I’d bet she wouldn’t be surprised.
A long time ago, I came to terms with the fact I’m the “struggler” of the family. Everyone has one. (Unless you’re all incredible, then get out of my face. Kidding. Kind of.) I never once thought of myself that way (or anyone that way, really), but it’s the term I heard most.
If you’d ask me to classify myself, I’m the kind of person who had every opportunity but spent a long time avoiding hard work because I don’t like to do it and never had to face that until now. Also, I’m the “other” twin. That’s a pretty important detail. From the start, my sister was the one who excelled at every part of life, which isn’t a crime, only a fact.
My earliest memory of our twin dynamic was as a toddler. I didn’t get ready for bed the way our dad taught us. My sister decided to show me how. Mom caught her on top of me, grinding the cloth into my face. (I would bet money my sister will read this upstairs once published and be like, “yup, accurate,” while sipping the afternoon Café Misto I picked up from Starbucks.)
It’s a fantastic quality to have — natural drive and clarity, one that has made my sister very successful in her life (deservedly so). If you’re so fortunate not to be distracted by the wind, please let me know how it feels so I can live through you. None of my family shared my struggles. Raise your hand if you can relate — I know you’re all out there.
Mom told me she knew she would be a doctor. There was no other option. My father is a very successful businessman. My brother was the class clown and a football star with excellent grades.
Then I was just there. Even back then, I didn’t mind at all. Some of us like being the one without the focus, right? In fact, not being the focus is how I learned to skip by in life. (Skating through is what got me in trouble in the first place, though, make sure you find a balance.)
At home, we were all treated equally. I had my theater friends — received every lesson, teacher, or shiny new toy I ever wanted. I didn’t even care when my twin went from weird girl to popular overnight as she grew into her bombshell status. I was the fifth-grader dressed as Teddy Roosevelt, complete with a wheelchair and coffee mustache on “historical figure” day. I knew I looked like a boy.
The only time I ever was really upset about not looking like my sister was when we wished we were identical to switch classes. Being plain had its advantages, though I could’ve done without the teasing about looking so different — that part I didn’t understand. (No badgering would’ve made all our lives easier, I’m sure). Back when I cared, it was nice to see others’ surprise when I could do something right. People don’t expect much of “normies” (Does anyone remember Susan Boyle?) Or of pretty people, for that matter.
My sister faced her fair share of scrutiny — she just didn’t let it stop her. It’s a mindset I’ve picked up since living with her. I wish I had sooner, of course, but “youth is wasted on the young” and all that.
In her words, when I asked if she knew how many rumors spread about her and how many people obsessed over her, she said, “all I remember is what stupid shit I could get into next all four years.”
She had a lot of friends because she treated everyone equally. If you made her laugh, she liked you. I got boy parts in plays, which made me happy because I found them juicier). I did well in music — keeping my grades afloat. What bothered me was the academic side — this I will admit.
If our younger selves ever did come to visit, how many of us would shake them and say, “you’re not stupid!”? How much simpler would life have been with this knowledge?
(I’d also add, “BTW, stop using hand soap to tame your hair. That’s so weird — go get some Suave mousse for three dollars, damn. But overall, this would be the first thing I’d say to young me.)
I could look like a hobbit (a huge benefit when I played Bilbo), but not being considered dumb meant a lot to me. That was my first mistake — I think pretty much of our mistakes when we’re so young (and as adults, too). I cared what other people thought. Sure, I had a few bullies, but all I needed to do was believe in myself, and life would’ve been more comfortable. I had more friends and supporters than I realized. (I’d also advise young me to tell little Bobby he couldn’t do karate and watch how he runs crying.)
But working through your differences is damned hard when you don’t have your footing yet. My sister and brother flew through school and athletics — which was depressing as hell. I won’t lie. (I feel the need to stop here and remind everyone I was a kid — there’s always someone in the comment section who thinks it all happened yesterday.)
Mom and Dad did their best to teach me math, but I couldn’t get it. Music, language, theater, those all made sense to me. I spent most of my time skipping class in the library or with my French teacher.
(Did anyone else do that?)
Teachers would hold me to the same standard as my sister despite my learning disabilities and the fact I was a whole other person. Which I think was cool save for one thing. They marked my dyscalculia (which I didn’t receive a diagnosis for until my senior year) as “laziness.” I received no help— and I did need help. The worst part is I like math when I can understand it.
I don’t blame my teachers for this. The nineties started a monumental educational reform to support student learning. However, there was still a lot to learn about disabilities, though our school put a lot into the “Gifted and Talented” program — which I’d tested into, and the reason educators suggested I was “faking it.” I was even part of the Academic Decathlon and won awards for my essays.
Still, I landed on the “Silver Team” because of my abysmal grade point average — which the competition publicized. I placed at the top in music competitions and honor band, but I couldn’t get through basic calculations. I’d never seen so many F’s on a report card — and it was mostly because I just said, “fuck it, why try?”
(I know I’m not the only one who went through academic hell. Each year, 1.2 million+ kids drop out of high school in the United States.)
As an adult, like all adults have to at one point, whether it’s sooner or later, I found a way around my struggles and am unafraid to use what tools I have to.
By my age, most of us are aware of our strengths and weaknesses. Then there are those like me who are what they call “late bloomers,” I guess. As long as we all get there, I don’t think we should care what they name us. But as a child, nothing is worse than trying to find your footing in life while being in the same class as your twin and seeing her “math rocket” on the wall is on Earth, and yours is stuck on Pluto with the kid who eats paste. (Which is an insult to the glue lover who was gifted. He just didn’t care and liked the taste of Elmer’s).
I’d also like to say I don’t blame my sister for any pressure placed on me. I’m better than ever because all this happened to me, I believe. Even at the time, I realized it wasn’t her fault school was so simple. Everyone is different is one of the first lessons we learn as “adults” — or at least I did.
It would’ve been nice to know it all back then, though, right? My route went a wildly different direction than my sister’s — mental hospitals, counseling appointments, “alternative learning.” (Which was a sweet deal, but I was a clinically depressed teen coming off a suicide watch — so you can imagine my mind was elsewhere). It was sad. A waste. If I had pushed myself harder, what could I have been? But the cliché “everything happens for a reason” is one because it’s all true.
I wish I could’ve told myself I could do whatever I wanted. But at least I can remind myself of that now, and you, of course. Though a lot of times it’s hard to remember all that, isn’t it?
Time to stop running
From here, you can use your imaginations to fill in most of the plot because so many of your stories are the same. Somehow, I graduated. My guidance counselor pulled off a miracle with the 504 program.
I had no plans for college. What use was college when you couldn’t get past Algebra? I didn’t even take the SATs. (I received my B.A. eventually at twenty-seven, which might not be “traditional,” but according to the Education Writer’s Association, at times, adult learners made up forty percent of the nation’s college students. )
After high school, my sister went straight to a big college, rowed crew, and got straight A’s — a key requirement of the “dad scholarship” — conditions that didn’t apply to me. I don’t blame my parents, either.
Most of the pressure to perform came from comparing myself to my sister and brother, something my parents never did — it was all in my head and at school, but that time was over. To me, by eighteen, I should’ve been ready to be on my own or at least have some idea. That’s the rule, isn’t it? Don’t most parents wait for the day they can say good-bye to their adult children?
A lot of the discomfort about me not going to college was also self-inflicted. (Back when I went to school, going to junior college and then transferring was one of the “loser” options, but there are even Ivy League schools that accept transfer students. You’ll have to work your ass off, but it’s doable.)
At least in my experience, life has presented common standards — milestones we’re meant to hit by certain ages. College, career, marriage, etc. We also can’t forget the added pressure of being a woman and your ovaries shriveling before you squeeze out the family you don’t want (or do — your choice.)
I floated around for a long time, acting here and there at various theme parks and playing for pit orchestras, being young and often really stupid. It was a time I won’t forget — most of my happiest memories and stories come from these days. I feel everyone needs to have this experience, to find yourselves and your talents — to be an individual. Still, in that little part of the brain that continues to jab at you until you face it, I knew I needed to shape up soon and didn’t know where to start.
When I auditioned for the Disney Cruise Line and got in — I thought for sure I’d found my “thing,” and my problems would be history. Nothing worked out that way, of course. Maybe it was realizing there wasn’t an easy way to catch up in life, or maybe going to school while you worked on a ship thirteen hours a day with no days off made me “off my game.”
All I know is I came home worse than I came in, but I didn’t and still don’t regret the experience. Some of the hardest parts of life are necessary for growth.
(I’d add this to my list of things to tell young me, who most likely would be hog-tied in a chair because she’d tried to escape at this point.)
Then I found my ex-husband, and once our relationship became serious, I thought, now this is when I am going to make it. For whatever reason, I grew up with the idea falling in love, getting married, and having kids I didn’t want would fix everything. I’m not alone in thinking this way, either. “Band-aid babies” are a thing. Thankfully I wisened up, realized I needed to stop running, and left all that behind before any innocent kids came into the picture. (This drama is another story altogether.)
I couldn’t run anymore. I gave in.
There’s a point in your life where you just have to stop running, stop avoiding the hard work it takes to get where you want to be.
Sometimes, it’s harder for certain people, but we owe it to our younger, more hopeful selves to try, don’t we? But what our younger selves might not understand is there are times you need a hard reset. And that requires some redirection, leaning on others.
I didn’t learn this lesson, of course, until I came here to my sister’s. When I had no other option, I listened.
If you’re moving forward, you’re okay.
Now I’m here living my kid self’s worst nightmare. Yet, I have not imploded, and thanks to my family’s generosity, I am thriving and will very soon be on my own as a proper adult.
But my situation I’ve shared with you says something about the pressures we place on ourselves in life. It says, don’t be so hard on yourself and most certainly don’t compare yourself to others. Life moves at the pace it needs to, and as long as you’re moving forward and trying to be your best self, you’re doing fine.
Everyone comes into themselves in their own time— the last bit of advice I’d give younger me along with the warning that our sister will make us read through an entire Goosebumps Choose Your Own Adventure book — no page skipping — despite the instructions and do not do it because the story is chaos.
Then I’d shove young me back into whatever hell-portal she came from, and I think she would leave feeling satisfied. I know she’d be happy my sister and I were so inspired by each other still, and that’s a win for me.
Now, it’s your turn. What would your younger selves think of you today?
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