Middle Syndrome -Polished Personal Response

What do these texts suggest to you about an individual’s capacity for self-sacrifice in the face of compelling circumstances? Support your idea(s) with reference to one or more of the texts presented and to your previous knowledge and/or experience.


I chose to incorporate the theme of motherhood from the visual, and certain lines from “Dancer” into my piece, this was achieved through the use of emulating lines from the poem or integrating the strong stance of the mother into the visual. I chose to explore my experiences as a middle-child and how it made me become a self-sacrificing individual. Specifically, how as one’s selfish desires transform into greater aspirations to care for one’s family, the capacity to self-sacrifice expands with the degradation of personal selfishness.


The sun is horizontal, so the flesh

of the near-naked girl bouncing a ball

is netted in its light, an orange mesh

weaving between her and the shadowed wall.

Her body glistening and snake-crescendoes 

electric in her lighted muscles, she 

pauses before each pitch, then rears and throws

the ball against the darkness, venomously.

The interlocking stones cry out and hurl 

the black globe back, all human purpose stript 

from its wild passage, and the bounding girl 

bolts in and out of darkness after it. 

Stumbling in the shadows, scalded blind 

each time she whirls to face the sunlight, she

at last restores the patterns of her mind.

But every ball’s more difficult to see. 

Alden Nowlan

Stampede 2016

A middle child, smack dab in the middle of a hectic family life – often forgotten about amidst the hockey bags and calculus homework. I often find myself stumbling in the shadows of the house trying to remember if  Rob has a hockey game or if  Kyle borrowed the car or why no one bothered to tell me. All familiar purpose stript, replaced by a wild passage of “Where’s my keys?” or “What time is puck-drop?” The sense of a family disrupted by the ongoing hurly-burly of life, often leaving behind a girl to bolt in and out of darkness chasing the inklings of a family. Nevertheless, there is something special that lies in the silence of the Conrad house, whether it be the absolute stillness combined with the way wistful piano notes float through the air or the way that I could dance in my underwear to my favorite show tune.  It was truly beautiful, the silence, when everyone’s come and gone but it’s still hard to imagine that the house was full of the hustle and bustle of the Conrad’s  just minutes ago. That’s just how it is, I finally get to relish in the solitude but my mind always drifts off to those idiots.

Christmas 2008

It’s kind of weird, I guess, it feels as though I was just picked up and placed into this house, it’s never really felt like a home anyway; however,  sometimes I find myself missing these stupid goofs more than I love the solitude, peace, and freedom that comes when they’re away. It’s absolutely confounding, I have so much to do and I have all this free time – you know – with them always gone and all, but the blogging, comments, math homework, bio projects, rehearsals, labs, books, essays… just can’t compete for brain space, all I can ever think of is them and how much I miss them. But people never listen, whenever I try and talk to people about my family life and how I feel left out and secluded whilst still desiring  to love and care for my family, they just sum it up to “middle syndrome” –  being squeezed between the rebel oldest child and the almighty supreme youngest, but still longing for the comfort of belonging that comes with loving your family. Kyle, as the oldest child always getting to reap all of the “firsts” that come with being the oldest, often leading to an abuse of power and rebellion, Rob, however, gets all of the benefits that come with being the baby of the family.  I can kind of see where they’re coming from like Kyle is pretty rebellious. I remember this time where Mom, Dad, and Rob were at a hockey game and Kyle had a BUNCH of his buddies over, way too many for Mom to ever be fine with, and they got completely wasted and the satisfying thing was when Mom came home and saw her precious white carpet strewn with beer cans – she lost her top – but I also think that she was glad that he was doing “normal” teenage things. But then we get to Rob the other bookend of my solitude, and Mom and Dad’s angel child – youngest siblings are always the favorite. Then there’s me always left weaving between them and the shadowed wall of middle syndrome.

Welp, I am starving! What should I make for dinner? God knows that no-one else will make it later and clearly I can’t do my homework – stupid mind always drifts to the goofs – so why not start now? My stupid brothers of mine are the pickiest damn eaters I have ever, and will probably ever, know. Kyle can’t stand any meat so literally everything I love is out of the question and that naive little Rob can’t stand any vegetables at all, my goodness how does Mom cook for these two bozos?! I guess I’ll just have to go with their favorite: spaghetti … how disgusting. This particular Italian cuisine has been the bane of my existence since birth but everyone else seems to like the dish so every once in awhile I swallow the detest and eat the stupid meal. I guess that if I didn’t eat the spaghetti then Kyle would be stuck eating meat and Rob would be eating my favorite dish, vegetable medley with steak!


Sitting there, boiling the noodles, cutting the mushrooms and gagging – it all truly smells terrible. I wonder if my family ever notices that I make dinner without being asked, despite the mountainous stack of homework on my bedside table. I wonder if Mom knows that she doesn’t have to come home screaming about dinner, despite the dishes already being on the table. I wonder if Kyle and Rob know that I would love to go for a drive or watch a hockey game, but I can’t. I simply can’t. I’m too busy feeling like I don’t fit in with them. I’m too busy thinking of my homework, too busy thinking about them, too busy thinking about homework… That’s my life, an endless cycle of thinking about myself then thinking about my family like interlocking stones crying out and hurling the black globe of a family at the horizontal sun. Gah! I couldn’t care less if they wondered or not, all I really care about is them not the homework but them. I care that they have don’t have to worry about dinner and can come home to a well thought out meal rather than the frivolous junk from McDonald’s. I guess that my circumstance being a middle child and all has made me become this person who does everything in her power even if it means sacrificing my happiness, and academia, for my loved ones. My brothers’ stupid smiles and how they would be incredibly irritated if they came home to no dinner or how Dad would become the epitome of angst when told to clean the bathrooms, or how Mom would have to slave over a meal after a tough day at work – these are the reasons that the schoolwork doesn’t matter right now, this is why I have to sacrifice my schooling for them, this is why I love them.

The silence of the house is broken as my mother and brother enter laughing about the ridiculousness of the hockey game, I try to listen to their trite banter but I can’t get out of my head; I am still thinking of my abnegation and how it all started because of the love I have for this mix matched family of crazy. However, once again, as the hustle and bustle of my unhinged family happens before my eyes they are yet to notice that the spaghetti is on the table. That’s just how it is in the Conrad house, one’s selfish desires transforming into greater aspirations to care for the family through self-sacrifice coupled with the degradation of personal selfishness, with no one ever noticing. No one ever notices the girl stumbling in the shadows, scalded blind each time she whirls to face the sunlight.

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