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A Series of Breaks

kobieta's picture

I.                   Breaking Away

I am a twin. For a very long time now, I had been vying to be my own separate person. My parents, or anyone else in our family for that matter, have never treated us as if my twin and I are just one person. I can’t say much for other people, though. For some reason, the general public thinks that because we are identical twins—same not only outside, but even inside, within our genes—that our personalities should be the same way, too. This is not the case.

Growing up, my mother always made us wear the same clothes. The garments would be similar in pattern and design, only differing in colors. We always had the same hair, the same earrings, the same friends, even the same face. As children, it was fun being my twin’s reflection, and vice versa. When I was old enough to realize there was something wrong in the picture, it seemed impossible, then, to alter the way that many people have been viewing us—inseparable, an entity that somehow cannot exist without the other.

In school, it always irritated me that other people called us “the twins” rather than by our own separate names. This was the catalyst to a series of events that would lead me to breaking away from being a twin. I so desperately wanted to be my own person. I wanted people to recognize me as Katrina; an individual. There was a time in junior high when I hated being a twin. Back then, being a twin was somewhat of a nuisance; after all, I had to go through so many efforts just to be able to get people to call us by our own names, and not “the twins,” to recognize that we were two very different people. Even though we were in different classes, people still kept trying to clump us together. In fact, the more I tried to break away, it seemed, the harder it was to separate myself from my twin; it was the only thing people ever noted about me.

Then, something changed in high school. My sister and I had completely different schedules, different interests, and different sets of friends. While I was involved in swimming and water polo, she got involved in campus organizations such as Yearbook and Key Club. We would wake up at the same time every morning, go to school together, but somehow, by the end of the day, we’ve become two separate beings, completely entrapped in our own lives, and almost a stranger to the other. There came a point in time when it seemed that there was nothing for us to ever talk about anymore, not even in those short moments we have during the night, laying down on our own beds, right before succumbing to sleep. We still had similarities—same taste in boys, the same favorite book, and the same opinions—but with very different interests. For the first time in our lives, it seemed that we were no longer competing, no longer trying to outdo the other in an attempt to be more different.

It was then that I realized that while I was trying so hard to break people’s habits of calling my sister and me “the twins,” I was trying to break away from my own identity. Although I do not have to let the fact that I am a twin dictate my life or who I am, it is important to realize that I am still part of a whole—me and my twin. I can initiate a series of breaks—breaking away from her, breaking free to be my own self—but it only has the paradoxical effect of making us even closer together, a whole. The more we grew different, I have come to realize, the closer we become. Instead of competing against one another, we started complementing each other. Although it took a while, it finally sunk in that breaking together, makes us one. The general public was right all along; we cannot live—perhaps cannot even function—without the other. Since then, I do not think I have ever attempted to stop myself from breaking away from the norm; after all, this habit has changed my perspective. The twin syndrome, as I like to call it, has never left.

II.                Breaking Boundaries

The very act of me writing this piece is something I have never done before, and this action in itself is another one of my breaks. I am an immigrant who moved to the United States when I was ten years old. My training on writing papers started way past then, mostly in English classes in junior high and high school. In high school, it has been engrained in my mind to write in a certain structure: intro, evidence, commentary, evidence, commentary, and conclusion. For six straight years, I did not dare defy the standards, did not dare to break the boundaries that limited high school-level writing. It has always been enough for my purposes and needs. Since I've started college, however, I realized that there is more than one way of writing. In my ESEM class last semester, I found it quite liberating to write as I felt; to present my ideas in such a way that made sense to me, and not to the instructor, not to the other students, and especially not to the oh so standardized curriculum. Academic writing, as I've found this past semester, is not limited to a certain structure; its credibility does not solely depend on the number of sources one quotes from. But rather, it is a genre of writing whose boundaries and borders not only allow you, but almost encourage you to change it—perhaps break these boundaries—to fit your needs.

            This essay is the start of me breaking the boundaries of the writing I had always known and followed. It is most likely that I still write in much the same way, my voice still consistent to my past papers, but the structure of my papers now is only fairly reminiscent of my papers in the past. I am no longer trying to attempt a triangle for my introduction, there is no block where my evidence and commentaries exist, and I am definitely not going to turn my triangle upside down for a conclusion. I am breaking the boundaries that have limited me from writing what I wanted.

By doing this piece, itself, I am breaking free from what has been engrained into me. By doing so, I am not just succeeding in freeing myself from the mold; I am also slowly making myself whole. I’ve mentioned earlier that it takes a series of breaks to make something complete, and the same goes for my personality. By attempting to break away from the norm, I am realizing what makes me, me. This type of writing may not be who I am at all, or in a directly diametrical possibility, maybe I will come to realize that this is what I like and would continue to like to do. Through this break, I am slowly piecing the puzzle together, of who I am as a writer, as a person.

              III.   Breaking Through

Going a step even further, by participating in this project, I am breaking not only away from the standards of academic writing, I am breaking through. A breakthrough: “a sudden advance in knowledge or technique” (“Breakthrough”). The Breaking Project is an “advance in knowledge or technique” in that it has succeeded in breaking away from the standardized views of publishing, and using the internet as a medium to enable and empower many people to share their experiences of “breaking”. It is a collection of “breaks” that is simultaneously performing a “break.”

But is it really a break? It is still a novelty; there is no sure way of classifying it. It is an ongoing project, a series of constant revisiting and re-editing. If this process is constant, then the project itself is not a break. What is considered to be a break, anyway? Is it just a sporadic change of direction, an alternative route? Perhaps, the break is not so much a break, but more like a point of inflection, in that the change is eminent, inevitable. The slope has been constant throughout a period, until we know that we have reached a maximum, and it is time to change courses, to inflect. It is the pause right before a roller coaster falls of the hill; the half-second it takes for you to realize the consequence of an action. The “break” is not necessarily the process of change—since that is ongoing—but the specific moment that the effects of change sink in.

The Breaking project is a platform that connects and bridges many “breaks” into a whole. Through participating in this, by submitting this piece, I, too, have become part of it. As breaking away from my twin, breaking the boundaries of writing has taught me, the pieces that come from these breaks are the very things that make up a bigger idea, a bigger thing. I am now part of the bigger whole that is the Breaking Project.



Works Cited

“Breakthrough.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2012. Merriam-Webster Online.03 Feb 2012.       <>.






Wil Franklin's picture


Your “breaking” piece is honest, insightful and provocative. I was stirred by many ideas you share, particularly with the mirror imagery and the triangle shape of writing.  I once described scientific reports as “hour-glass” in shape. I wonder whether different people would describe the shape of different genres in the same way. Is there any interesting consensus to the shape of different formats?

The most provocative idea  for me, was your concept of change as “inflection”.  Your assertion of constant change seems valid, thus what are the consequences? If change is inevitable, then change is not a break, but more –as you say – like an inflection point.  And of course, it is not always a turn down.  It equally can be an inflection up.  Or it can be a constant turn in the same direction with the end result being that one ends up where one started. And now this comments ends with a circle - back to talking about shapes.


Anne Dalke's picture


You spoke in class last week of your surprise @ reading a personal essay in The Breaking Project by your bio prof, and you spoke afterwards of being inspired by that "break" (into who is he outside the lab) to tell your own story here.

I'm so glad that you did-- both for the vividness of its account of the paradox of how "a series of breaks" can actually "make something complete," and for its acute description of a break as a specific moment of realization and understanding. I'm sitting here smiling @ all the dimensions revealed and illuminated by your own "breaking project"...

and urge you (of course!) to send the piece on to Alice for inclusion in the volume which inspired it, and to which it as clearly belongs!

There are multiple other directions for us to explore together, of course. Your description of the "fun being your twin’s reflection," when you were children, makes me think about Lacan's psychoanalytic work on the mirror stage (in which children begin to recognize themselves in the mirror, and thereby begin to develop an awareness of "self"). I wonder if anyone has studied the growing self-awareness of twins in this regard? What happens if what is mirrored, by a twin, is both identical and not (as you describe it as being)?

You and froggies315 both took the risk of writing personal narratives this time 'round, and there's an interesting echo between her early realization that "if her big sister had claimed writing as her thing, she would have to find something else," and your vying with her twin "to be her own separate person."

I'm also wondering if our work, upcoming, on graphic narratives--and in particular the visual representation of self in those texts--will be of interest to you in this regard? I can't wait to find out!

kobieta's picture

revision < individuality

I was thinking about submitting this paper for the Breaking Project, however much of the comments made me think twice about doing it. Not so much because they discouraged me or whatever, but because it made me realize a couple of things.

First, after reading Davidson and Goldberg, I realized just how much collaborative learning I have used on this paper. I mentioned in class that I was using this procedure without even realizing it. Much of what I had to say in my paper-except for my anecdote-was an amalgamation of both my ideas and the class'. Which leads me to my second point. I wanted to revisit and revise my piece before potentially submitting it into the Breaking Project. But if I do so, it would become less original, and more collaborative. But isn't that one of the things that Davidson and Goldberg were encouraging anyway? To work with other people instead of focusing on the individual, reiterating that everything, inlcuding this little piece, is a work in progress? We established as a class that everyone plagiarizes, but is there a limit to that? Can I be individual through my own ways in this piece of writing?

So now, I find myself stuck. I wasn't completely happy when I submitted the piece. I found it redundant and a bit lacking in that for me, this wasn't really much of critical-thinking, but more of piecing together what I learned in my own experiences, with the thoughts I came up with from our class discussion on Thursday, February 2; they're not exactly ideas that I have mulled over for hours, days, weeks. Thus, I am hesitant in submitting the paper as it is.

After reading the comments, however, I feel that I cannot revise my paper without taking account all the other things you and others have mentioned. I guess the question is whether or not I want to be more or less individual.

Ayla's picture

anecdote/conclusion analysis

Your essay is full in that your conclusion is illustrated by your anecdote quite well.  In your conclusion, you write that the "break" is not necessarily the process of change...but the specific moment that the effects of change sink in.  I like how this relates to your story about you and your twin trying to break away from being one entity.  You took the time to illustrate the process of breaking away from her - wearing the same clothes, being referred to as 'the twins', and then getting to high school and being involved in different things.  The effect of that change - that growing apart, whether it was your doing or not - did not sink in until later, right?  You write, "there came a point in time when it seemed there was nothing for us to ever talk about anymore."  Yet you commented that you had to realize that the process of change that you were going through was not actually the 'break' so to speak.  The 'break' was when you realized that you couldn't ever break away from being a twin, being part of a whole.  So, the ironic thing is that the process of change that you went through was not a process of becoming your 'own person,' but a process of realizing you already were.  I don't mean to write over your words - this is just an observation I made from your writing and I thought it made the piece really rich.  Thank you for sharing!

kobieta's picture

Thanks for your comment! This

Thanks for your comment! This is really helpful, actually. When I was writing the piece, I was afraid that I wasn't able to successfully relay my message. But from your comment, and what you got out of it, I guess my message is clear.