By Emilia Benton
Do you have any sisters? If so, consider yourself very, very lucky. Mine is awesome. In the words of soon-to-be-"First Daughter" Malia Obama, "Arguing is the worst thing because then [our parents] sit us down and say, 'You know you guys are the best thing that you have in your life.'"
Carla and I are identical twins and "only children." People ask me all the time what it's like being a twin, to which my initial response is, "What's it like not being a twin?" because, hey, it's all I know.
Seriously, though, being a twin is pretty fabulous. In a nutshell, it's like having a built-in best friend. Like me, Carla is also in her senior year, though she is at New York University, where she is a Spanish major with a minor in business, while I'm here at the University as a print journalism major with dual minors in Spanish and women's studies.
Going to different colleges has been really beneficial for us, mainly because it's allowed us to be more individual. And I'm not going to lie-it's pretty fun to freak out our friends when we visit each other's campuses.
Carla and I are alike in many ways. We share a major coffee addiction and were each born with a full set of "sweet teeth." Having been born and raised in Houston, Texas before our father moved us to much-too-small Newport, Ore. a few years ago, Carla and I are both self-proclaimed "city chicks," which is why we both ended up here in New York. We also both live for long-distance running and are aiming to run the New York City marathon (26.2 miles!) soon after graduation.
We do have our differences, though-I doubt Carla will ever come to appreciate my love for country music and hot-pink-anything, just as I will probably always find mint chocolate chip ice cream and steak to be disgusting.
Personality-wise, according to my dad, Carla is the stubborn one who likes to get the last word in during every argument, whereas I am the super-sensitive and emotional one (I think he's still convinced that I can cry on command-not true!). Also, Carla (and my father, for that matter) is super-organized and a total "neat-freak"-as for me, I'm, well...not.
Like any siblings, we've had our fair share of tiffs over the years and have undoubtedly done and said things to each other that we now regret. But ultimately, we've always got each other's backs. I remember back when I was 14 and in the ninth grade, a relative asked what Carla and I wanted to do after high school. When I said, "I'm going to go to college in New York to be a journalist," my dad laughed in my face. Later on, Carla and I told each other, "He can laugh all he wants-we'll get there." I can't completely discredit my father, though (he is reading this, after all!)-thankfully, he eventually came around and has played a huge part in making it happen.
People ask us all the time why we chose to go to different colleges. Yes, we did this on purpose. Truthfully, it's been really good for us. Growing up, we used to fight all the time, but now we rarely argue at all anymore. We talk nearly every day and see each other just about every weekend. That one semester Carla spent studying abroad in Madrid was the longest we'd ever been apart and I felt incomplete without my other half waiting for me to visit in Manhattan. In more ways than one, Carla and I have a more unique relationship compared with other siblings.
On Dec. 16, 1998, when Carla and I were 11 years old, our mother was brutally murdered by an intruder in our home in Houston while we were visiting relatives with our father in Arizona. It's taken me nearly all of the past 10 years to be able to openly talk about it, much less write about it. I've been reluctant to bring it up in conversations myself because I refuse to let something so horrible define who I am and have for the most part taken to discussing it only when people ask me about what happened.
While I've come to terms with the fact that my mother's murder is what it is and will undoubtedly always be a part of my past, it's still hard for me to believe that I've gotten through the past 10 years without my mother-and I honestly don't know how I ever would have gotten through them without my sister.
All of my mother's family lives in her native Peru, while my father's relatives are all in Arizona. With our dad all the way out in Oregon, Carla and I are, in a sense, all each other has.
Ten years ago, I honestly had no idea where I would be at this point in my life. Back when my mom was alive, I was half-heartedly contemplating a career in fine arts. I eventually figured out for myself that I'm not that good at drawing or painting (but that's another story) and came to embrace my love of writing as a teenager. When I decided that the most realistic way to pursue my dream career in magazine journalism would be to go to college in New York, I was so incredibly scared about the prospect of coming to school here not knowing a single person other than Carla, who would be 45 minutes away at NYU. But the fact that my mother came to New York (Staten Island, to be exact) from Peru as an exchange student when she was 11-not yet knowing much English -was enough to convince me that I could handle it.
Over the years, I've wondered if this is what my mother would have wanted for me and often questioned whether or not she would be proud of me for the way things turned out. At the end of the day, deep down, I can convince myself that, yes, she would be. At any moment that I've ever come close to giving up or selling out, I can still hear my mom's voice, clear as can be, reminding me that "lazy people work twice." Although to be honest, back when I was 11, she used this catchphrase to scold me for halfway-completed chores and I would roll my eyes at her. But in the end, she was always right.
Needless to say, these past 10 years have not been easy. Although I believe I have grown to be a stronger person overall, I do still need to let myself have a good cry every so often. When I think about the past decade in terms of my mother's death, while the sixth grade was definitely a long time ago and it has certainly felt like a long time without my mother (as it has now been nearly half of my entire life), I still can't quite believe it has actually been 10 whole years. Truth be told, while I have grown into a very different person, the girl I was 10 years ago is still very much a part of who I am today. And you know what? That makes me happy.
So, at the risk of sounding sappy, this one is for my sister. Carla, you're my best friend, my closest ally and I love you. Here's to the next 10.
Emilia Benton is a senior print journalism student. You may e-mail her at