We all make decisions, and sometimes we regret them. Most of us can’t know what would have happened if we had chosen differently. But Commentator Camille von Kaenel and her twin sister thought they could.
We both hated being twins growing up. People would always mistake us for each other. We smiled and waved hi to people we didn’t know, or answered questions from teachers about homework we didn’t do. We were similar – but we would never admit it at the time. We have the same freckles and straight brown hair. We took the same classes, mostly, and had the same friends. We shared a room. We played a lot of soccer, both on defense. I played on the left, she played on the right. We even led our high school news magazine together.
And near the end of school, we faced the same choice. We could stay in the Bay Area where we grew up – or return to Switzerland where we were born.
She chose Berkeley. I chose Geneva.
And I had a hard time. I had to commute an hour and half by train to school and I stopped playing soccer. I endured my first real winter, with miserable gray fog, cold and snow. I missed my friends, my bike, the beach.
Meanwhile, my sister went to wild parties in dorms and co-ops and made new friends. She had her own apartment. She learned to surf and sail and went on camping trips in the Southern Sierra. I missed those mountains.
When I would start snoozing through my classes on judicial history, I kept thinking how much more excited I would be if I were taking my sister’s classes on Buddhist theory and Spanish literature. It was almost like I was in a science fiction story, and I was peering into a parallel universe. I was jealous. That could have been my universe. I wanted to go back for a do-over. I even tried transferring to Berkeley – several times. But I never ended up going.
But as I kept riding my lonely train back and forth from home to school, life – it actually started getting better. I began to see the good things in Europe: I had mountains of my own, so I hiked the craggy Swiss Alps. I spent time with my family. I got to visit Oslo and Barcelona and Lisbon and a bunch of other charming European cities. And I never had a shortage of good chocolate and cheese.
The best part was that people I met along the way got to know me only as me, not as half of a pair. I realized my sister and I had been different people since the beginning. We had always wanted to have lives of our own, and now we did.
Looking back, it seems pretty silly that I ever thought I could have been better off in some other universe.
And now that I’m in New York – my sister’s the one who’s a little jealous of me.
Backannounce: Camille von Kaenel doesn’t hate being a twin anymore.