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We have this running joke in my family that whenever my mom would send one of us off to our first day of kindergarten, she already had a new baby to take care of in her arms. After my older sister was born, there was always another one of us clinging to mom, cuddling up in her warmth. My older brother was there when my sister started school. I was there when he did, and so on with my two younger brothers. According to the math, we make up a total of five siblings, and I was born right in the middle. 

During the first four years of my life, I was the baby of the house. Looking back, I had no idea how good I had it. My little brothers are a blessing in my life, but I can’t help but remember searching for my mom in the crowd of parents outside my kindergarten classroom and watching her figure grow smaller and smaller in the distance, pushing my brother’s stroller towards her car. All those days of spending every waking hour with her were already behind me, he had taken up my spot in the blink of an eye. I missed her immediately. But I was a big girl, with my pink notebooks and my hair piled into a ponytail. So, I tightened my scrunchie and went about my first day.

My life would soon be made up of many moments where I had to adjust my scrunchie and attempt to ignore my feelings for the sake of maintaining peace. I’ve always been emotional, suffering from an overwhelming need to give a dramatic performance in order to receive any type of attention. Yeah, I was one of those kids who would float upside down in a pool to see if anyone cared if I drowned. I would hide around the house to see if anyone would try to find me, and cried when hours passed without anyone realizing I was gone. I know that I can be a lot to handle, but I have no idea how else to be. It was like the universe informed my parents that I was ready for emotional independence at an early age, so I didn’t need to be taken care of as much as my siblings. The patience that I’m expected to show every second of every day has become tiring. Being in the middle meant that I had to be the balanceーboth as an older and younger siblingー, but never enough to receive the perks of either of those extremes. Too young to be treated with grace, yet too old to get away with everything.

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I can’t sit here and say that I’ve been a perfect saintーI know that some of those gray hairs that decorate my mother’s hair are my fault, considering how little it took for me to get into trouble. My older siblings have a lot on their plate and the younger ones couldn’t possibly have any idea of what they did wrong. Nowadays, I aspire to be forgiving; to pave the way for peace. I’ve learned to apologize even in situations where there are no traces of my involvement. The amount of pride that I choke down on a daily basis rivals the glasses of water that the average human is expected to drink. Don’t think I signed up to be the mediator, that I am not intense. But in a sea of loud voices, it’s all too easy to be reduced to background noise. Sure, I can be consumed with emotion, but I hate going to bed angry. I’ve always been quick to regret and admit when I’ve done something wrong. It’s never justifiable when I decide to be a problem, when I want to be unreadable and lash out. Even if I receive empathy at the moment, the groveling I have to do to get back into everyone’s good graces seems endless.

When my social life expanded and friendships began to bloom, I was aware of how replaceable I could be. Letting my guard down meant that people would notice that I didn’t fit in; a predicament that would inevitably manifest itself into a lifelong struggle with my family. I was too much and too little all at once. The attention I used to beg for was slowly being given to me, but I was still not satisfied. I needed to dissect that fact that anybody would want to be friends with me in the first place; a full-blown science project that explained how on earth I could be considered special when I’ve only ever just been there: around, in the area, drying like a coat of paint on the wall. Who could be attached to someone with so little presence? Why would they try to meet me in the middle? I was used to popping up in a paragraph, but never inspiring enough to be its subject. I wish I could accept compliments like a normal person, that I could embrace the praise that comes my way. 

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Two Brothers Pictures / GIPHY

As a friend, a writer, and an actress, I wish I didn’t always expect the worst. I wish I wasn’t so successful at convincing myself that I’m always a weak link; disposable at any second. 

Being the middle child isn’t just some quirky title for a Buzzfeed article or a badge to wear on your favorite cardigan. It’s rarely feeling like a priority; always crying on your birthday because the cake isn’t even your favorite flavor, and wondering if anyone knows your favorite anything because you always go with the flow. It’s wanting to settle issues even at your own expense, a hand-me-down that never fits just right, a hug that ends before any real comfort soothes your pain. It’s crying in a public bathroom, hugging your arms close to your body, and then spending the rest of the day running errands. You cosplayed as an emotionally intelligent adult so well that nobody noticed you were a kid, and now you’ve grown up and they think you’re doing great. Bet you regret being so ‘mature for your age’ now. That independence you were given probably feels like a slap to the face. You made the best out of the short end of the stick, and nobody has taken the time to compliment your ability to keep yourself together. The middle sibling waits for an apology like a child trying to take a peek at Santa on Christmas Eve. We all cried when Santa Claus turned out to be fake, right?

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One day, I’ll hopefully run out of unnecessary apologies to give. I’ll accept the love that is given to me without scrutiny. No more time spent asking ‘why me?’ because I’ll recognize that I’m special and cherished. Maybe I’ll give my imposter syndrome a run for its money, having finally understood that good things can come my way because I worked hard to ensure they do. Hopefully, I’ll realize that I deserve praise for the things I do, and I am equal to others. I’ll smile on my birthday, and cry only because I love to put on a good show. The patience and care that I show my family will reflect in how I treat myself. I’ll stop adjusting my scrunchie and let my hair fall freely, let myself express what I need without holding anything back. From now on, I won’t be too much or too little, but more than enough. 

Elisabet Ramírez is an Education in English major, with a minor in Acting. An artist at heart, she enjoys writing short stories, comedy routines and scripts. You can always find her typing furiously in the notes app on her phone or learning the dialogue from movie scenes by heart.