When I didn’t take time to enjoy the quiet of the morning, a dark resentment was inside me. I hated to be awake before nine. I hated my morning commute. I was exhausted even after sleeping a few hours more. Nothing seemed to be bright or cheerful or worth the slogging days of work and work and more work. For those of you who have gone to school and held a job at the same time, you know that the day doesn’t end after your shift does. Once home, you have papers and projects to work on, and then hauling your tired butt to class. For me, those classes are two and a half hours, three nights a week.
During that time I yelled at my boyfriend. I stopped calling friends. My mother complained, “Jessica, you are so negative it’s no fun to talk to you.” All around, I was descending into a frustration-fueled depression that I couldn’t see any way out of. Then the boyfriend got a job that had him out of bed at 5:00 a.m. Bless his soul, but the man couldn’t be quiet if his life depended on it. I, a light sleeper, ended up grumpily staring at the ceiling, a new complaint to add to the infinite list.
And then I got out of bed. Boyfriend had made me a cup of tea in apology. “Here,” he said, “if you’re up, you might as well have breakfast with me.”
It started a trend. Five days a week, we would tumble out of bed and he would make breakfast, and we would enjoy an extra hour in each other’s company. In a world where work and school take up most of our lives, that hour felt precious.
How many of you wake up with a scrolling To-Do List running through your minds? Even as I throw off the blankets, shivering in the cold morning, round and round the To-Do list goes, scrolling through appointments and plans and did I remember…? It’s punctuated by my bleary stare in the bathroom mirror. I used to roll out of bed about 30 minutes before my first To-Do item needed completion. Last minute homework? Important e-mail to send out? Let me panic about it as I speed wash my hair and rip through my closet.
But at 5:00 a.m. the world is quiet. My boss is still asleep, my professors either the same or slowly sipping their morning cup of joe. There are no emails coming in, no forgetting socks in my rush to get out the door, just a winter sky as dark as midnight and the slow rumble of my tea kettle.
After boyfriend heads to work, I sit on the couch, mug in hand, and flip on the TV. And guess what I do next. Nothing. I sit and I relax. Sometimes I read a book or sip my tea while sitting out on my balcony (in the warmer weather) and watch the sunrise. In these few morning hours, I don’t feel panic. My heart doesn’t pound to the beat of the daily grind. I brush my hair and practice my french braiding, eventually giving up (my girl skills are hopeless) and fluffing out a bun. I find a nice shirt, lace up my boots, start up the Keurig for my to-go cup.
7:30 a.m. I’m dressed, ready, and finally clicking through my inbox. There’s a peace inside of me. That may sound dramatic, but there’s a special feeling of taking care of yourself. It makes me feel like I matter beyond how much time I devote to work. I can look past my day-to-day. Now, I have a happier relationship, a cleaner house, a better outlook on life, and Mom has one less thing she can nit-pick about.
Not everyone has as many hours as I do in the morning. Some need to be in the office by seven, some earlier. The important thing is that somewhere, at sometime, you take time for yourself. The world will not fall apart if you put everything down for an hour and watch a stupid TV show, or close your eyes, or have a hot shower. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we are the cog that keeps the machine going, but it is both humbling and a relief to realize that everyone got on just fine before you or I came along and they will still be just fine when we are gone. That doesn’t diminish the work I do, but I had to remember that I do my work for me, not for anyone or anything else. It opened up the notion that I can structure my day around myself. Crazy right?
So join me at 5:00 a.m. Take a longer lunch break. Give yourself an hour between getting home and starting your coursework. It took a change in someone else’s life to make a change in mine, but I’ve chosen to stick with it. Maybe the same could work for others.