by Faith Hoyt—
I grew up with a twin sister who doubled as a built-in best friend. She was also my built-in barometer for behavior. Whether it was my attitude at home or social interactions at school, I had a gauge for my conduct and so did she. Despite Laura’s claim to the title of “older twin” (by two whole minutes), we were two peas in a pod who instinctively looked to each other for honest feedback. For most character-building experiences, like lessons in generosity, diligence, kindness, and self-control, Laura was right by my side. She was—and still is—the person I trust to tell me and teach me everything.
One of the first things I remember learning from Laura was generosity. Our mom tells us how, if given something, Laura would reach out her other hand for one more and then march over to share half with me. I have to admit I didn’t behave as generously. Parental reminders to share were likely emphasized on my behalf. My parents knew it and so did I—Laura had the sharing business down—and I benefitted from her example.
In our pre-teen years, my twin barometer taught me the value of being diligent about responsibilities. Take the basic task of cleaning our rooms. Some kids are pretty good about keeping their rooms clean. Then there was Laura, who took it to a whole new level. I liked to tease her that her room felt more like a hospital room than a bedroom. (Incidentally, Laura works as a nurse now.) Despite the teasing, she knew I enjoyed being in her room more than mine. Inspired by Laura’s attention to detail, my room started looking similar to hers.
In high school our relationship became less about learning from each other and more about learning things on our own while still occasionally comparing notes. Laura’s personality (the Campaigner) and mine (the Advocate) meant that while we could both get enthusiastic about things, I was the first to step down and look to others for input, while Laura led the charge. It created some tension in our relationship. While we were learning to understand and appreciate our differences, we were also re-learning how to use that barometer of ours. Peer pressure made me want to blend in. It made Laura want to challenge the status quo. I like to think we balanced each other out. We eventually learned to approach our differences carefully, appreciating the things that made us different rather than feeling threatened by them. I know this too has come in handy in life.
People sometimes ask me what growing up with a twin is like. I’ll tell them about the times we traded places in school, or the way I’ll randomly text her and discover she is texting me at the same exact moment. There are a million little secret ways that being a twin feels special. What I am most grateful for is the silent way my twin teaches me. Laura is a second pair of eyes to help me self-reflect. My twin barometer shapes the way I learn because she knows what my best self looks like and doesn’t let me settle for less. She bolsters me in the right direction.
Now, several years into our careers and living in different states, Laura and I see each other a handful of times a year. At the beginning of this year we started planning for a mid-March visit—a reunion interrupted by the spread of coronavirus and subsequent stay-at-home orders. While we haven’t been able to see each other yet, we’ve stayed closely connected. Phone calls are a sacred time. The stress of a pandemic has drawn us closer—and I know I can lean into my twin barometer whenever I need to re-calibrate. We’re weathering this together. I’m still learning from her too. As a nurse on the front lines, Laura shows me what bravery, compassion, and self-sacrificing love looks like.
I sometimes wonder how people get through life without a twin, but then I remember there are other barometers too, like friends. In friendships, we look to each other to listen, be empathetic, and give perspective. We lean into each other for advice or for helping to stay focused on what matters most. We all function as barometers.
Perhaps you have a twin and your growing-up years looked similar to mine. Perhaps not. Different though our experiences might have been, I know we have this in common: we’re all still learning—and learning from each other.
Faith Hoyt is the assistant editor of the Pacific Union Recorder and a communication specialist with the Communication and Community Engagement Department of the Pacific Union. She is pursuing an MBA at La Sierra University.