Feelings of comparison are natural and felt by everyone, but are perhaps amplified when you shared the same womb, the same genes, same face and same matching outfits with someone else – your twin. I’ve always struggled with the fact that the lives of mine and my twin sister have been compared from the very start – intentionally or not. Because we’re twins, one eye always looks from one to the other; unspoken comparisons are entirely normal, and so too I imagine are the feelings of inadequacy when your sister achieves a milestone that you have yet to reach.
We were born only 18 minutes apart, treated and loved absolutely equally and each given the same opportunities as the other. Naturally, as we grew up, our lives went on different paths. My sister went on what is seen to be the traditional road: a steady job, fiancé and a house and all this before she turns thirty. I’m nowhere near putting a ring on it and only in the last few months could my job resemble steady as I freelanced and worked part-time for a few years. She’s ticked off many boxes at a very young age, which often made me ponder my own life choices that were always going to differ.
She got the first job, first boyfriend, the first school trip away, while I waited in the wings. Unspoken milestones that I agonised over because I hadn’t “achieved” them. In our teens, she got to wear the skirts and dresses while my main concern was covering my necessary yet unhip splints due to the Cerebral Palsy I had from eighteen months old. I loved her absolutely, yet how I envied her. How she could get dressed with ease (and unaided), achieve better grades – and the big one – she could wear any shoes she wanted. Why wasn’t my hair as nice as hers? Why weren’t my teeth that straight? (My fault – I adamantly refused the braces). Why didn’t I look/feel as pretty as she was/still is?
I felt conflicted; simultaneously wanting to be her while resenting her. Thankfully, the feelings passed (along with the teenage hormones) and so I came the realisation that she hadn’t it as easy as I mapped out. She felt burdened by her own freedom, guilty that things were so different for us, and then I felt guilty about that – a never-ending cycle. She did the same by comparing her life to mine so we each felt our own pressures. We never speak of it; the guilt felt from both sides, but I’d like to think it’s brought us closer together.
And yet, as we grew into adults, with every success for her came the inevitable “it’ll be your turn next” often innocently said by friends and family, and so I still felt uneasy. What if my “turn” didn’t come? And more importantly, why was this bothering me so much?
When I really thought about it, I realised that I feel this at the same time every year – when my birthday approaches. I compare and contrast until I’m driven demented. It was my mother – so wonderful and so much wiser than I – who gave me back my perspective. Why is it, she wondered that when the time comes that I get another year older, I focus on the negative? What haven’t I achieved as opposed to what I have?
I’m a happy, my-glass-is-always-half-full kind of person, and her words made me realise I’m doing it. Living life. In the grand scheme of things, milestones – whether I reach them before or after my twin – don’t matter. Because comparing your life to another only leads to one thing: unhappiness. The most important is that you’re living your life exactly the way you want to because the time we have to do this is undoubtedly precious and it’s too short to live it through someone else.
Go and do it. Life will happen. It isn’t a race; you’ll fall, you’ll bounce back, but as long as you can look back and fondly fist-pump the air in celebration for all you’ve achieved, I guarantee, you won’t give a toss about milestones.