By Carissa Lee
Admittedly, my introduction into the world of the early birds was a bit contrived (read: I cheated a little). Extreme jet lag upon returning from a summer internship abroad combined with my body’s steadfast aversion to the Pacific time zone inevitably created a monster: a new and improved, super-Carissa with the power to wake up at 6 a.m., work out, shower and cook a hearty breakfast all before class at 9:30.
I use the word “monster” and reference superheroes mostly in the spirit of the horrified-to-amazed reactions I’ve received from peers about this so-called “totally Palo Alto” lifestyle I’ve adopted, but in all honesty, I’ve never felt more human. Stumbling out of the dorm every morning — arms a-shivering, eyes still a bit crusty — I look forward to the sight of the pinkish-purple dawn sky. It’s strangely poetic, me warming up for my run just as the sun starts to warm the planet, and it reminds me that somewhere between all the p-sets, papers and meetings, I’m an actual living human being with the capacity to put down the Google Calendar app and appreciate my physical surroundings.
That’s really what my morning routine is about, now that I think about it: a focus on the physical and present. That window of time just past dawn —when nobody stirs, besides the occasional athlete, of course — is like my secret key to escaping the hustle and bustle of the Stanford bubble.
There really is nothing like a nice, long run off campus to get my endorphins flowing, muscles pumping and body all revved up for the day ahead. Plus, returning to a vacant, private (and might I add, spacious and modern) gender-neutral bathroom for a heavenly post-run shower is nothing short of serendipitous. As for breakfast? Why not try out a new toast recipe, or perhaps a fruity yogurt arrangement of some sort? Lord knows I’ve got the time. In these moments alone, without even realizing it, I end up truly engrossed in whatever physical task I’ve set upon. It’s its own special type of bliss, allowing my mind to relax and defocus from life’s various preoccupations.
I won’t lie, though: this new schedule of mine hasn’t been all sunrises and rainbows. I tend to find myself slogging through long afternoons, and if I happen to be anywhere near my room, there’s at least a 70% chance that I’ll end up napping instead of finishing whatever mountain of work I’d promised to get done. While the general expectation for early birds is increased productivity, I feel even less inspired to work when I’ve already worked out.
Funnily enough, it would also seem that what I’ve gained in physical flexibility I’ve lost in the social sense of the word. Essentially, I’ve joined my athlete friends in retiring early for the night. This has also meant saying goodbye to two of my most faithful companions of the past year, late-night study sessions and Wednesday night EBF, because I’m frankly too exhausted to be up past 11. Ironically, this inflexibility extends even to exercise. My old running buddies, bless their souls, are unfortunate night-owls to their very cores. With the growing amount of 12 a.m. “run soon?” messages I’ve slept through, it’s sweet and just a tad heartbreaking that I still get invites.
To complicate things further, all this talk about college being the “prime time” to meet people and hang out with friends makes me question whether or not I’m making the right choice here in prioritizing my routine. On the odd occasion, I wonder if I’m even in control anymore, what with the magic of endorphin addiction being a thing. And yet, I continue setting my alarm at night, anticipating those silent moments of reflection with the sunrise and dawn and the cold that never fail to renew my conviction.
So verdict: would I recommend it for others? Of course! At risk of sounding like a broken record, taking the time to just appreciate the fact of one’s existence is surprisingly invaluable. While I do recognize that the early-bird lifestyle perhaps isn’t sustainable for the average college student, I’d definitely recommend keeping it up for at least a week before quitting. As for me, I’ve got no desire to give up the rush and sense of peace I feel every morning as I breeze past campus and beyond the bubble. It’s truly a sensation I can’t overstate.
Contact Carissa Lee at carislee ‘at’ stanford.edu.