What’s it like to be a morning person? And by that, I don’t mean that you necessarily like being awake in the morning. I mean, what’s it like to be awake in the morning?
Of course, I’ve been awake in the morning. But since the early half of 2000, I haven’t had to wake up regularly in the morning. Thanks to 20 years in the service industry, my work started at 4. Depending on the jobs, sometimes a shift would being at 10:30am and for a short while, really early, like seven or dawn, when working at an Irish pub for European soccer matches, but those lunch shifts were never consistent. If I’m up and moving before 8, (and by 8, I mean 9. Actually, 10) I either have to be at a doctor’s office or I’m getting on a plane. And on some extra special mornings, my sub-consciousness anxiety woke me up at 5am and I’ve been sitting on the couch eating French toast and waiting to be tired enough to go back to bed when everyone else is showering and starting their commutes. And, actually, that’s the same with flights – once we’re in the air, I’m asleep. Also, after a doctor’s appointment? Kicking off my pants and laying back down wondering when they’ll call me back with the test results saying I have every STD known to humankind – even if it’s the optometrist.
So, I guess I’m asking, what’s it like to be awake in the morning when it doesn’t feel like a novelty and then stay awake until bedtime?
Setting an alarm and having a consistent schedule has never been a thing for me. If that sounds glorious to you, maybe you could pull it off, but inconsistency has always rewarded me with a constant humming of slight to above average anxiety. Without a set schedule, sleeping becomes hard. It’s chaotic. And at some point, it becomes lonely. You’re moving opposite to the majority of everyone else in the world. Sure, I can hang out with co-workers, but there’s nothing to do except drink after work, which got old for me several years ago. In my twenties and even early thirties, sure, it was great being able to crank back drinks until 4 am and still get 8 hours of drunk sleep, which didn’t help the hangover at all. Probably because after only three drinks, my body goes into the shakes since I’m always eating refined sugar and really, no one’s kidneys could effectively manage with that kind of uptick in glucose.
I avoided early classes in college, but if I did have them, I had a favorite chair in the library I would pass out in. High school? Forget it. My alarm was set to the last possible second and even that meant I was doing 80 mph on the highway to get myself and my younger brother to school on time. Which is a tradition within my family. My oldest brother, responsible for getting us to school from 1994 to 1996, would jump behind the wheel of the van at 8:08, barely awake and barely dressed, while blasting Guns n Roses, to get us to school by 8:15. And if I overslept by even a minute in high school, I wouldn’t go. I tossed my car keys to my brother and bargained with my mom. All I had to do was promise to clean the house and do the laundry and I got a day watching soap operas and The Price Is Right.
I stopped having a consistent bedtime at, like, 10. Everyone was always wandering around the house in the middle of the night and sleeping whenever and wherever. Baking cookies at 3am? Sure, just make enough for everyone.
I’m asking what a consistent morning schedule feels like because I have to do this now. Waking up in the morning and getting to work. I mean, I don’t have to, I’m working from home – like almost everyone right now. I could still roll out of bed at noon and barely get my freelancing done. But that would raise questions and eyebrows from my boyfriend who has been successfully working from home for years. Also, waking up at noon means I have very time to get any more work done, so I’m limiting myself in potential new work.
I had just begun attempting this novel morning person persona, when COVID-19 was like, “Yo! ‘sup!” I know we’re being told to just relax and do what you can – it’s a pandemic. Unprecedented and no one knows what to do. As long as you put on pants – good job. And if you didn’t – eh, maybe tomorrow. Except, the majority of our workforce being forced to work from home right now is an odd timing for me. Like an undercover oracle, two weeks before the restaurants were shut down in Chicago, I quit my bartending job after 20 years in the industry. To work from home. Just in time for a never before seen global pandemic.
A week after the Illinois lockdown, my old boss told me, “You wanted to work from home. Now you got everyone else to, too.”
So I guess it’s great timing for me there’s an influx of advice columns telling us all how to work from home. Oh, and that I didn’t lose my income like my co-workers*. Except I’d rather everything was back to normal. I’ll happily fade away into the night again.
And sidebar, one thing I learned from the coronavirus was a new use for the word ‘novel’. How many times have you heard the phrase “the novel coronavirus”? Like a billion? You don’t normally hear novel as an adjective, only as a noun, as in “Josh has been trying to write his novel for years.” But novel means new. Ironically, because of the novel coronavirus, we’re all having a novel experience, like learning to work from home or experincing collective trauma on a global level.
I’m trying to get up earlier and earlier. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, meaning most of the time, when my boyfriend’s alarm goes off, I sit up straight in bed like a jack in the box with bed hair and sheet lines tattooed into my temples, stare blankly at him through sleep-swollen eyes like I don’t who or what he is and then I flop back into the bed like a jumping fish falling back into a lake. Everything is a process.
Slowly but surely we’ll all get there. There might some days when I say fuck it to stress baking, roll butter in sugar and watch Letterkenny all day. There might be days when the alarm goes off and I get up, too.
So far, I’m in the middle. Waking up an hour after he’s scrumming away. Scrolling through IG for twenty minutes. Finally getting out of bed and groping around for my glasses and pants. Puttering around the kitchen for another 30 minutes. Jumping up every twenty minutes to find a distraction, like snacks or to sing to the cats (they like it. So do our neighbors).
Whenever I did wake up early, back when Earth was open for business, the world always looked different to me. It was a novelty. The sun hit differently. The air was crisp. Sounds were more sharp. Everything was new and ready to go. I was used to commuting to work in the middle of the day when everyone else is inside their offices and Earth was getting that 2 o’clock feeling. And then coming home, when it’s night and there’s no one around again, but more ominous. In the morning, on the way to an appointment or a flight, I’m watching everyone move with everyone else to the trains or inching down the freeway. Everyone’s together. And each morning seemed like it was giving Earth a mulligan. I liked it.
Man, I want it to hurry up and come back so I can join it.
*If you’d like to help those out of work co-workers I mentioned, donate to the Osteria Langhe Employee Relief Fund gofundme: