The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Waking up early can change your life for the better

Good morning! How was your 1010? I know, I know—why do those birds insist upon chirping so merrily while you, on the other hand, lie there in bed feeling so … “dehydrated”? You’re probably peeling this newspaper out from under a pile of dirty clothes, a few crushed red plastic cups (yep, they sure do crinkle up when you smash them against your forehead, who knew?), a stack of books you kicked over when you tripped into bed last night—er, this morning. You’re probably frantically using this newspaper now to sop up the pool you just spilled when you accidently kicked over the cup of water you intended to chug last night before flopping asleep but … looks like you didn’t quite make it. I’ve been there, baby—I feel your pain. So who’s calling this morning “good?”

Turns out I have a secret for all of you, a secret your grandmother who wakes up at the crack of dawn every day to go to church, a secret those 5 a.m. workout-a-holics, a secret even those lovely songbirds have been keeping from all of us groggy college students: the morning can be beautiful.

Blasphemy! (I know your head is throbbing, I know this kind of a shocker to your already depleted system, but can you lend me your ear for just a moment anyway?) How would I even know this truth? Haven’t I been scheduling all afternoon classes after that painful first semester of straight-8 a.m. classes? Haven’t I acculturated myself to the “competitive non-sleeping” lifestyle of Grinnell where the only sunrises I’ve ever seen mark the bleary end of an all-night scramble to finish a paper?

Alas, it started with a desire to prove everyone wrong. “I guarantee you’re fired within three weeks,” some of you said. “You’re out of your mind,” said others. But I signed up for that 6-10 a.m. shift in the Fitness Center—you know, the one that technically begins at 5:50 a.m.? I bet you didn’t even know the world worked at such diabolically early hours. Neither did I! Until I rolled up late one day at 6:02am (the horror!), and there was already a group of impatient early birds queued up outside, itching to hop on an elliptical. I swiped their cards. I sat in my sweats and nursed my coffee. I scorned them—but they let me in on their secret.

After two semesters of this shift, I’ve started to value these Tuesday mornings as an important marker in my weekly routine. Yes, that first toe out from under my warm covers is less than pleased—I’m tempted to burrow back into my pillow every single time. Eventually I throw off my comforter, eventually I slip on some sweats and flip the switch on my prepped coffeemaker (obviously it’s not my first rodeo), eventually I’m out the door. I can see my breath, my hands are tingling with cold. But that first look up at the still starry sky, the lingering sliver of moon—there’s the payoff.

As I ride my bike to the Bear, I imagine—I envy—all the other Grinnellians fast asleep in their warm, dark dorm rooms. There’s a thick, soothing calm over this place that disappears at the alarm clock’s buzz, when the stresses of the school day are waiting to greet you with breakfast and a cold cup of reality. Taking those moments to be up early, before the world is awake—though it might seem counterintuitive to cut out those precious hours of sleep—can make for a clear, ready, focused day, because you have a moment to just be yourself before everything else kicks in. There’s a sense of choice in these moments of preamble, as in one of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver, “Why I Wake Early”—she sets herself on a positive path, inviting us to “Watch, now, how I start the day / in happiness, in kindness.”
This is not about suddenly shifting my entire life schedule to become some magnificent early riser because it’s college, and that’s not realistic everyday. Just that one day a week set aside by a commitment to waking up—that’s all I need to recharge. It’s a welcome change in the grind that Grinnell can be, especially at this time of year: to bed earlier, to wake earlier.

So in the coming weeks, I suggest trying to take one day to rise with the sun ( … or just a little bit after). Instead of forcing yourself to fight through your homework at night until the wee hours, let yourself rest when you’re tired, and promise to get up with your early alarm. Then take a second to peek out your window at the sunrise, tiptoe around and get yourself organized at a leisurely pace, update your day’s Facebook status before any of your friends … er, browse the important headlines of Because I promise, not all mornings have to begin with a hectic sprint out to door to class or the words, “Dude … I just need a Gatorade.” Unless, of course, it’s the morning after 1010 and in that case I concede—noon does indeed count as “early.”

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    traceyOct 16, 2010 at 9:55 am

    i feel morning is the best time to meditate with the lord and get prepared to deal with the day anyway it may come