We are genetic duplicates. However, I am not her and she is not me. There's a lot to be said for how environment and a person's own mind affects one's development. Part of the fun of being an identical twin is to observe how, with the physical similarities and the similarity in the way that we were raised, we turned out so differently.

She was born with the will to live. Due to one of those things that they call acts of God, during our gestation period I had moved on top of my sister and was receiving almost all of the necessary nutrients in order to pop out a healthy baby. The obstetrician, after my mother had gone into labor early and they saw the sticky situation that had arisen, told my father, "We are going to try to save your wife and the big one, but there is no way the little one will live." She showed them. Not only did she live through childbirth, she grew up to be a hockey referee among other things, the only effect of the situation that remains is that she is one and a half inches shorter than I am.

It was a normal existence. Until our family was suddenly thrown into turmoil by the unexpected death of my father when I was seventeen, it wasn't much different from your typical upwardly-mobile family in the 80s and early 90s. We moved a lot - we went to five different elementary schools, but in each one my sister and I were determined to live our own lives. We never dressed alike unless it was for a joke or if we both liked the outfit and wanted to wear it on picture day. We were put in separate classes until the gifted and talented program found out about us and we had to be in the same "smart kids class" because there was only one teacher certified to teach it. I was the dominant twin, she the more reserved. I was loud and outgoing, she was patient and introverted. Sometimes I look back on it and feel bad because I always seemed to get what I wanted from everyone, including the special parts in assemblies and the choice bedroom in each new house just because I spoke up.

Junior high school was hell for both of us. Never were we more alike than in junior high because we had a common enemy - the other kids (and ourselves). We were intelligent, well-behaved students that always tried to treat other people the way we wanted to be treated. However, in junior high, cattiness and backstabbing are king, and so we did not fit in. We made friends with those that needed friends the most - the poor kids who bought their clothes at Kmart and the Purple Heart thrift store. The handicapped girl who could not speak clearly and walked with a limp but had a heart of gold and a mind that was screaming to overcome but the low expectations and ridicule of her parents, teachers, and other students constantly pushed her down into the "special education" classes and eventually into a lack of will to participate in society at all. Moreover, my sister and I hit puberty a little earlier than the other kids, so our faces were covered with acne and we were sometimes treated as lepers by the boys on the bus who spent the mornings and afternoons trying to raise their own low self-esteem by making fun of others.

But adversity brings strength, or so they say...I tried as hard as I could never to say anything about how I was feeling, and even convinced myself that I would let it roll off my back. If anyone needed help, I thought, it is her. She has it ten times worse than I do, and I haven't come across anything I couldn't deal with yet. Near the end of junior high, I considered my own well-being a sacrifice to save hers.

Things began to improve as soon as we were free from the confines of junior high and that dead end town of Houston and all that went along with it. We started high school afresh in a new city, a new place to start over. Our faces had cleared up significantly, but it is hard to break old habits. I think I tried a little harder than my sister did, since I had done a pretty good job shielding myself against the meanness of other people back in Houston. We started making our own friends and then one thing came into our lives that caused our activities, our friends and eventually our personalities to diverge in a very important way.

Hockey. My sister found an identity in playing a team sport for the first time in her life. She was a small girl on a league comprised of mostly boys, and finally broke out of her shell from a "what will they think of me" attitude to an "I'll show the bastards" attitude. She grew and developed her skill as both a player and a person. She became a referee, then a coach. Coaching was a new thing for her and it helped her to deal, at the age of sixteen, with irate parents and adorable kids and everything in between. She had to become a pro at PR, all while keeping integrity within her team and showing them that winning was not the most important thing, that the simple existence of being a team was what really counted. She took a random group of preteens and turned them into a team that loved what they did. Of course, they loved it more when they would win.

In the meantime, I began to develop as an artist. It was almost a role reversal. She became more outgoing and I turned more introspective, possibly trying to piece together what I tried to stoically roll through in the previous years. I learned how to play guitar, I started writing my own songs almost immediately. I became involved in community theater. I won extemporaneous writing competitions for my school's academic contests. We had changed, yet everything was still the same.

After graduating from high school, we went our separate ways. She ended up studying business at Southern Methodist University and I am trying to get out with one of those crazy liberal arts degrees from a public university. She held on to, and developed an enviable faith in God and is now a baptized Episcopalian. I had to part ways with mine as my experience showed me that it didn't fit anymore. She no longer plays hockey and I no longer do plays, but the lessons that both of us learned will stay with us forever. Although through our college years we have chosen very different paths, we are still very close and she knows me better than anyone else I know. We are both jealous of each other's perceived intelligence.

It is that perfect best friendship, from the very beginning, that is almost impossible for anyone else to achieve.

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