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I was born May 10, 1987, the third child in my family. I enjoyed the title of “the youngest” for exactly 754 days (and 3 hours) until I lost the coveted title on June 2, 1989 when my brother and sister were born. I now hold the often-detested appellation of “the middle child,” wedged between my two older siblings and my two younger siblings. This position, however, has positively molded my personality into what it is today. Largely as a result of being born in the middle of a large family, I have become a competitive yet compassionate overachiever.
Growing up, the children outnumbered the adults five to two. As a result, I often had to battle with my siblings to get my parents’ attention. In my young mind, I felt attention had to be earned by doing better than my siblings. This competitive spirit sometimes manifested itself in unusual ways. For example, when I was just four years old, my older sister Jill and I began an inane two-year-long contest over who had longer hair. We both refused to cut our hair for two years, until finally she chopped off six inches of her locks, thus ending the ridiculous feud. My sister, refusing to lose gracefully, now gloated, “Ha! My hair is shorter than yours!” Looking back, this small competition had little immediate consequence, yet it illustrated the beginning of my competitive nature.
Today, I am still the same competitive person I was thirteen years ago. When I go to Math League competitions, my goal is to beat students from other schools as well as my own teammates. However, I am not competitive in the sense that I want those around me to fail. If, after a Math League test, one of my teammates does not understand a concept that I do, I will gladly teach it to them. In doing so, I am making my competitors stronger and therefore more difficult to defeat in the future. Nevertheless, I feel that it would be unfair of me to sit and watch them repeatedly make the same mistakes. This compassion for others is another facet of my personality that is a byproduct of my position within my family.
As the middle child, I hold the role of not only the competitive younger sister but also of the compassionate older sister. While we were growing up, my older siblings often asserted their superiority by teasing me. Knowing how such treatment feels, I have tried to shield my younger brother and sister from my older siblings’ wrath, and I have avoided treating them the way I was treated. The compassion that came from this experience has carried through to other aspects of my life, including my approach to competition. Thus, while my competitiveness has allowed me to excel by pushing me to do well, my compassion has tempered what could have become an obnoxious personality trait.
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