Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
I never seem to make it all the way. I’m a half-sister, half-Jewish, half-Christian, half-Canadian. I have one parent not two. I sleep with one leg under the covers and one leg out. I’m blonde in the summer but brunette in the winter. Even the stars don’t align; Teen Vogue declares I’m a Pisces while Seventeen swears it’s Aquarius. More importantly, I have a sort-of, kind-of, twin brother named Alex.
It all started in the freezer. While my brother and two other nameless embryos were, as Alex sees it, “selectively” chosen to make their grand debut in the spring of 1990, I was left behind—frozen in time. Alex emerged exactly nine months later, forceful and headstrong. I, however, was forced to bear an unforgiving two-year winter in the depths of New York Presbyterian (a possible explanation for my fear of freezer-burn). It was nearly three years later that I finally received orders to defrost. And just as I was beginning to warm up, I entered the world on an exceptionally frigid February morning…and cried about it.
My brother and I have never thought twice about the technicality of being twins. It has always been, for us, a matter of fact. Growing up, our mom was completely open about it, rarely missing the opportunity to point across East 68th street to remind us, “And that’s where you were frozen” before pointing out where we were having lunch. For me, this level of comfort is why I have never seen myself as “half” of anything at all. My half-siblings, Lorin, Edward, and Josh may rival a few of my friends’ parents in age (or taste in music), but they were never less a brother or a sister for it. When my classmates were boasting about the latest Pokémon card they had bought, I was boasting about my latest niece or nephew who had been born.
Because no one in my life ever defined “normal,” I was given the extraordinary opportunity to define it for myself. Normal is going to Seder for Passover and Church for Easter. It is spinning dreidels and singing carols. It is being called “Aunt Grace” before even knowing how to spell those words. It is losing a father but finding a hero in your mother. While many students experience standardized tests as stressful, I tend to start sweating well before section one. As the proctor politely asks us to “check the box which is most applicable to yourself,” I start wishing I had some sort of chart or diagram to guide me through my religious background. Instead of mentally reviewing vocabulary like “concomitant” and “vituperate,” I find myself trying to rationalize how many siblings to write down.
But I would never choose to have any fewer halves than I do. One might be surprised at how many topics of conversation you can extract from Edward’s passion for squash or Lorin’s latest photography adventure. Just last week I was able to survive an entire dinner party talking solely about the charter school Josh established up in Harlem. I sit comfortably at a Christmas Eve feast with ham and potatoes or at a Shabbat dinner with challah and gefilte fish. With every new thing that I try or place that I go, I relish it as yet another “box to check” or “half” to add to myself.
I know quality is usually weighted much heavier than quantity. I have been exposed to “a little bit of this and a little bit of that” but have not yet had the chance to truly explore and develop each side of myself. But at this point in my life, I’d like to think time is in my favor. Right now, I choose to say “Shabbat shalom” and “May peace be with you.” I choose to read two horoscopes in every magazine and let my hair lighten with the seasons. And I choose to call Alex my twin, regardless of the fact that he’s three years older than me. Perhaps most importantly, being comprised of many different pieces doesn’t leave me feeling incomplete. It has made my life richer, less predictable, more interesting. Maybe the whole really can be greater than the sum of its parts.
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