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The college experience x 4

By Alana Blum

Section: Features

April 23, 2010

ONE OF FOUR: Alana Blum reminisces about her experience as a quadruplet and studying at Brandeis without her siblings.
PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

For my family, everything seems to exist in fours. There are four siblings, four colleges, four college tuitions and four careers in the making. And we wouldn’t have it any other way (except the four college tuition fees, of course).

Unknown to many Brandesians, I’m a quadruplet, born second. At home, being a quadruplet, or “one of the four,” was my identity. Here at Brandeis, I’ve tried to form a new identity, but when all is said and done, I’m still “one of the four.”

The moment the college search began, it was an unspoken rule that the four of us would branch out into four separate colleges. We were more than ready to have our own space and be known for who we are individually rather than as a whole. Now, my siblings and I are spread out across New England, and I’m happily stationed at Brandeis.

Since I was little, people have often asked me what it’s like to be a quadruplet and my reply has always been the same: “What’s it like not being one?” ven though I’m now away at college, I still have that unique relationship with my siblings that has resulted from sharing my life with them since day one. Sure, we will often go through weeks at a time with no communication, as often happens between family members, but I’m never happier than when I hear their voices.

Adam, the “baby” (he was born last by a mere fifteen seconds), was the first one to get dropped off at college last year at the University of Connecticut. My other brother, Daniel, born third, was the next to get dropped off. He went to University of New Haven last year, but will be transferring to Wentworth Institute of Technology this coming semester. It was when I was saying good-bye to Daniel that it really hit me: The four of us were going our separate ways. And I can’t tell you why, but suddenly my eyes welled up with tears. This was it: soon we’d be getting separate jobs, getting married, having kids. The years ahead flashed before my eyes, and I was already consumed with nostalgia for days that weren’t even over yet.

It wasn’t until Passover that year that we were all together again, and I could detect that each of my siblings had begun forming a new identity for themselves. After that time apart, character traits I had never noticed in them before had become much more apparent and defined.

Arielle, the first born, was back from Israel, where she attended seminary last year, and I suddenly noticed how spiritual she had become. And Daniel was beginning to show his more loving side as he came out to greet me with a huge hug. In the past, he had been a little gruff at showing affection but one day, to my great delight, Daniel ended one of our phone conversations with “Good bye, I love you.” Adam, who is studying political science and business at University of Connecticut, surprised us all with a level of knowledge we never guessed he possessed.

To tell the truth, perhaps Arielle had always been spiritual, maybe Daniel had always been affectionate, and perhaps Adam had always been so intelligent. Maybe even I, like many people in our lives, had been so blinded by the concept of us existing as one single entity rather than as four individuals that I had just never noticed how unique we truly are.

When I came to Brandeis this year after transferring from Bay Path College, I’d always use “I’m a quadruplet” as my cool and unusual fact about myself during icebreaker games. I never realized I had stopped telling people about my siblings until Wednesday when I caught three different people off guard when I mentioned that I was a quad. People’s initial responses are often based in surprise, as they ask me if I’m joking, but today I heard a new reaction: “How come I’ve known you this long and I’m just finding this out today?” I didn’t have a response. Instead, I myself began wondering why that was.

Being at Brandeis has definitely helped me shape my own identity. While at Bay Path College I had felt like part of a broken entity; here I’ve had the opportunity to explore my interests and figure out my own individuality. Back at home, my siblings and I often did everything as a whole, including joining the same clubs, or enrolling in the same classes. At Brandeis, though, I discovered my interest in the field of anthropology without having heard about it first from any of my siblings. At Brandeis, I joined clubs that held special interest to me as an individual, rather than to the four of us as a whole.

As much as I stress that I’ve enjoyed forming my own identity at college, I do often miss the good old days when I could just walk into one of my siblings’ rooms after a hard day and pour my heart out to them. But the most horrifying aspect of our separateness came earlier this semester with the death of our uncle. We had gone back to college after winter break thinking it would be a while until we were united again, but the funeral brought us back together a week later. It was strange to realize that it took a funeral for us to feel like a whole again.

In the end, none of us regrets going our separate ways. My siblings and I had four separate baby cribs, four separate high school diplomas and now we have our four separate college experiences to laugh and cry about when we’re together. Only then can we experience that the whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts.

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