I’m writing this piece at 8AM on a Sunday morning, having already been up for an hour. You’re probably reading this with bleary eyes, gripping a cup of coffee with insane focus, wondering why. Why get up that early? On a Sunday. Why start working that early? On the weekend. Why be a dreaded morning person, when the bed is warm, the comforter lives up to its name, and languishing in sleep is a beautiful indulgence?
I was not always a morning person—believe me. In a former life, I was a bartender. My shifts started at 4PM and ended somewhere past 2AM, and beyond that was time to drink, to smoke too many cigarettes, to unwind in the dark hours of the night when the schmucks, the morning people slept so they could wake up early for a farmer’s market, or some such morning thing. I relished sleeping against the sun, falling to bed when the sky began to lighten, waking sometime in the heart of the day, devoting my waking hours to the night.
Then, I got a day job.
The transition was rough. The first night, I doubt I got any sleep at all. The second night, I got in a few hours, mainly due to exhaustion. By the end of the week, I imagine I was averaging 5-6 hours per night, when before the shift, I was getting 8-9. Every day was devoted to how many cups of coffee I could chug without completely nuking my stomach. Every workday was a slog, and I couldn’t focus enough in training to do more than get through the exercises as quickly as possible—so I could turn my brain off again and rest. I was miserable.
Until, that is, I decided to become one of the people I reviled the most: a morning person.
Part of the decision was born out of necessity. If I was going to arrive at work at 8:30 every morning, I couldn’t fall asleep with the sunrise, or even stay up past midnight if I was going to get a decent amount of sleep. But I hated every self-imposed bedtime, every night I resigned myself to what felt like overly early tiredness, and missing out on the witching hours I missed so much. On the weekends, I resorted back to my old hours, or a shadow of them at least, staying up late into the night, rising in the late morning, not getting much done before noon at the earliest. I could wake up early, but I rebelled against it. Every morning I was discontented with the hour, groaning as I got dressed.
That changed when I started my side-hustles.
Once I had a podcast and a magazine to tend to, there simply wasn’t enough time in my day to manage all that I needed to without giving up time to relax at the end of the day. I was constantly working, and while I loved my new projects, even the minutia of filling my social media feeds, I was constantly on deadline, constantly stressed about getting through the next day, never mind getting ahead of the curve.
And I realized that I was not, in fact, a morning person, but a night owl who had decided to fall into a morning person’s routine. Instead of relishing in the early hours of the day and enjoying the sunrise as much as I once loved the sunset, I was simply going through the motions. That’s when the real transition took place.
Instead of setting my alarm as late as possible in order to get to work on time, I began to push it back so as to allow myself to work in the mornings. While I sipped my coffee (instead of throwing it back in a series of caffeinated shots), I could edit essays, cultivate interesting material for my Facebook and Twitter accounts, or simply take out a book and read if there was nothing new and pressing in my inbox.
Slowly, I began to understand the pull of the morning, the beauty of waking up before dawn and watching the sun come up before heading to the office. Once I got to my day job, I was already energetic, having a cup of coffee (or two) in my system before walking through the door. Sure, I went to bed earlier, but the evenings were mine. I could watch a movie with my husband without feeling guilty, make a lavish dinner without feeling like I needed to shove it down my throat and get back in front of the computer. Mornings were my time to focus on personal projects, solo joys, preparation for whatever the day would bring.
As my new scheduled flowed into my weekends, I realized I could get more accomplished, as my night owl husband wouldn’t rouse until after I had been awake for a few hours. I could take the time I needed to write, to edit, and to catch up on my notifications before he ever got out of bed, so that I could enjoy our days together instead of saying, “Just one more hour – I promise!”
But it all began with a simple decision. I could either wake every morning, hating it all the way, or I could choose to make the mornings into time that I loved, and, when you put it that way, the choice doesn’t seem so difficult