Finding strength in siblings
It’s almost here: the moment when, after over 18 years of sharing a room, house, class, school, car, birthday and more, my triplet siblings and I will begin our severed lives. Our parting has been anticipated, resigned, dreaded and celebrated but ultimately guaranteed—until last month, when my sister Charlotte and I realized we might be attending the same university.
When I was younger, I thought to be a triplet was to be inseparable from your siblings. In my AP Psychology class this year, my teacher explained the phenomenon of wearing the same T-shirts on exam day: seeing others dressed like you creates a powerful sense of belonging, which can promote higher scores. Skeptics scoffed, but I identified immediately: matching with my siblings always amplified the bond we shared, a connection I had relied upon for many years.
Until we were placed into different classrooms in third grade, I had spent nearly every hour of my life in my siblings’ company. To me, this hadn’t been a problem—who wouldn’t love being with her best friends in the world, her built-in playmates, the people that understood everything she had been and was going through? Suddenly the problem became establishing myself as one whole individual. If I wasn’t Charlotte’s and Devin’s sister, who was I?
I was a writer, I discovered, when it was my name the teacher announced before she read aloud the best Halloween story in the class. I was a great friend, I saw, when I opened my first solo invitation to a party. I began to realize that being a triplet and being myself wasn’t limited to the times we spent together or alone.
South gave us further opportunities to develop our own interests. Freshman year we isolated ourselves with ferocity, sharing no extracurriculars and only one class. However, after that first year, we became more comfortable with our distinct identities, enough to realize that coming together didn’t have to mean losing our own ways.
Some of my favorite memories with Charlotte were made when, as sophomores, we finally began to appreciate the advantages two had over one in handling high school. When I struggled with drowsiness during my chemistry class, I could sit in on her class during my free period to review the material. For any big papers, she could count on me to be particular from passive voice to punctuation.
Second semester of senior year we three walked into our first class all together since second grade. Our teacher continually marvels over everything from our distinctive dispositions to our diverse writing styles. With the greatest of distances looming, we have established our individuality and come together one last time.
But this isn’t necessarily the last time we have the opportunity to take a class together, for my sister has been accepted to the school I will attend next fall. We always planned for graduation to be the end of our proximity and the true beginning of our separate studies and careers, and now we must reevaluate how to be near yet apart at the same time for another four years. Can we be Carolyn Kelly and Charlotte Kelly, not the Kelly sisters?
My gut answer is no—our connection won’t prevent us from taking our own steps—and yes—we can be known for ourselves. I will support my sister in whichever choice she makes for her future, as long as that choice is not made out of fear of losing her independence. I don’t believe learning at the same school will prevent us from establishing our unique selves; only that it will make sharing all of our non-matching clothes easier.