Last summer, I realized something about myself. As I transitioned out of university and into a new position in camp ministry, I found myself craving quiet. When you work at a summer camp, finding space away from people is hard. But for introverts like me, it's a necessity. The only way that I could find time to actually go read my Bible and pray and take a bit of downtime without the background noise of 150 screaming children was to get up before them.
And I realized fairly quickly that if I was going to stay sane, I was going to have to haul myself out of bed at 6am and take that time. It meant that I usually had between an hour and a half to two hours before the rest of the world woke up, and it was some of the most beautiful time I have ever spent. When the mornings were warm, I would go and sit down on the dock and watch the resident eagle go fishing as I read and journaled. The lake wasn't buzzing with boats yet, so the water was almost always calm. I am so thankful that I had those moments for many reasons, but I never would have expected to find a new long-term rhythm for my life out of that.
Before this, I didn't consider myself either a morning person or a night owl. I was one of those people that could rock 11am meetings, but before 9am or after 10pm I wasn't much of a socializer. As it turns out, though, that was more to do with the fact that I didn't get out of bed early enough to figure out that I actually am able to be most productive in the mornings. I loved to sleep, and was more than a little bitter when I would have to get up to an alarm on weekends.
Since last summer I have continued to make early mornings a part of my life. I get up before the rest of the world, not because I have to, but because it is such a better way for me to start off the day. But despite all this, the title "Reluctant Morning Person" is pretty much the only one that fits me, and if I didn't make the effort to get up early on a daily basis, I could slip back into old routines quickly. But as I've made this early morning time part of my routine (though I haven't actually set my alarm for anything earlier than 6:30am for quite some time), I can't imagine going back.
It has been a great project in learning about myself and the way that I've structured my schedule, and it's led to some interesting observations:
1. When you make a practice of getting up early, you really do stop missing the Saturday morning sleep-in. Now even without an alarm, I tend to wake up by 7:30 or 8am on my days off, and I am so glad – it has absolutely revolutionized my weekends. There is so much more day when you're not sleeping late. I feel a bit like the kid who wakes up early to watch Saturday morning cartoons, except without the cartoons. I don't feel bad anymore for taking a slow morning, because I can take an hour to read and drink coffee without it being noon by the time I'm ready to do anything else. I don't feel guilty about not being productive in every waking moment, simply because I am awake long enough that I don't feel like I have to run full-tilt for the entirety of my time off to accomplish what I need.
If you would have told pre-Morning Person me that I would become one of those people who gets up early just because they can, I'd have laughed in your face. And yet here I am.
2. People have called me a "Tiny Grandma" for a variety of reasons, and now it's sometimes said with slight mocking when I'm ready for bed by 10pm. But the reality is that getting up early means you simply aren't going to be able to stay out until midnight all the time without spending your days rubbing your eyes and wishing you could take a nap at work.
But I also found that regardless of what time I got up, my capacity to be social or productive tends to end around the same time. During university, I could be wildly productive until about 9pm, but I would start to wind down around then even if I'd slept until 10 o'clock that morning. That time after 10pm often ended up being wasted with Netflix or mindless internet browsing anyway, so to cut down on it in favor of being awake early hasn't made my evenings any less productive. I do know, though, that I am almost always ready for bed by 10:30pm now. Maybe part of that is just that I'm an introvert and I've always been a full eight hours of sleep person, but my evening power-down has definitely grown since I've kept earlier hours. It sometimes makes weeknight socializing end sooner than it would otherwise, but I still find it to be worth it.
3. When you're up before the rest of the world, you get to be left alone for a while. Nobody else is vying for your attention, so it's the perfect time to do those things that you don't normally make time for. Whether it's reading that book, making a real breakfast, or staring at a wall for half an hour, you get to do those things without feeling like you should be somewhere else. I've found some of the best writing and Bible study has happened in those strange moments when everyone else is still asleep. And when I finally start my 'real' day, I usually notice that the lights in other homes are just beginning to flick on. It's a feeling of great accomplishment to have already done some of the most important things I'll do all day.
4. I watch the sun rise many mornings now; it's become a minor obsession of mine. My apartment is situated nicely to catch both the sunrise and sunset every day, and it's one of my favorite things about it. In the summer when the sun comes up by 5am, I don't plan on getting up that early, but it's one of the only things I actually enjoy about the short winter days. Sunrises happen without fail, and I like the reminder that the world moves on regardless of how stuck we feel and that even the hardest days don't last any more than 24 hours. Also they're really stinking pretty.
Essentially, my lack of morning person skills came from the fact that I never bothered to try. The sleepy-eyed transition time was so worth it. I love that I have more hours in my day to enjoy the daylight and even though there are days when I would rather have slept for an extra hour or two and times when I fight the urge to snooze my alarm half a dozen times in a row, I don't regret making a practice of early mornings.
If you've ever thought about making the shift in your life to include more mornings, I would heartily recommend giving it a shot. Get up and watch the sun rise with no real expectations other than taking it in over a cup of coffee. Work on that thing you keep putting off. Figure out if you're truly not cut out for mornings or if the title of Reluctant Morning Person fits you too – you might be surprised.