Smith: A night owl learns to coexist with Summit County’s early birds (column)
January 18, 2017
My alarm is set to go off at 15-minute intervals. It's my attempt to take things slowly in the morning. The first is a song, either something peppy like an embarrassing pop tune that I won't admit to being on my phone, or something that starts slowly and then builds toward energy, like AWOL's "Sail." Those are the optimistic ones, set with the hope that the music will inspire me to jump up and seize the day.
The next round isn't so gentle. The alarms edge toward the increasingly annoying. These are the pre-set ones that come with the phone, a series of high-pitched beeps and squawks designed to irritate me back into awareness. The danger is hitting the "off" rather than "snooze" setting, and defeating the purpose altogether.
Morning struggles are not new. Most people fall into two basic categories — early birds or night owls. There are benefits and drawbacks to each, but we're all more or less firmly pressed into one of them.
I am an unabashed night owl. I live for those late-night hours, seeing how far I can stretch my bedtime into the early a.m. My recent job shift to the newspaper copy desk — where we routinely work until around 10 p.m. — has only increased this propensity.
But I am not so narrow-minded as to think that my preference is the one true way. No, it most certainly is not. In fact, most of my family members are early risers. As a kid, I thought all adults got up early, and that once I became a certain age, that it would just happen naturally. Not true.
However, there have been times that I have dabbled in the world of the early bird, whether by necessity of job or travel, or by sheer force of will. I've watched sunrises from car, bus and plane windows. I've pulled the early shift aboard a historic sailing ship. I've camped, I've commuted, I've lined up for things. At one point, I made it my mission to wake up before the sun each day to write several hundred words and stretch my creative muscles.
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And I have to say it — there's something special about being awake and alive in the early morning. It's a quiet, reflective time. The air feels fresh, and the sky looks that certain way that swells within you, that you never see at any other time. There's a thrill to being up and productive while others are sleeping, of getting a steady handle on the day before it attacks you with its mundane routine of work and social interactions. Being an early riser makes you feel like a hero.
But also (insert cool Batman voice here), I am drawn to the night. When your daily routines are done, the night allows you to slip into whatever hobbies, activities and friendships that define you as a person. When everything's dark, time passes over you in a uniform rush, one that endears itself to long drawn-out projects, to devoting hours of time to a single pursuit. As a writer (and book nerd and Netflix junkie) this is one reason why nighttime is the perfect time to be awake. It's also inspiring. For every poem and passage I've written about the freshness of the dawn, there are a hundred more about the awe of a starry sky and the intoxicating rush of an evening breeze.
And I write all this knowing that, especially here in Summit, I may be in the minority as a night owl. There are so many here who absolutely live for the blood-pumping thrill of waking in the pre-dawn, strapping a pair of sticks to their feet and walking up a mountain. To those hardy souls I say, I salute you! And let us not allow our differences to keep us from sharing our experiences, whether sun- or star-soaked (Yes I know the sun is also a star, shut up science nerds, you're ruining my cool sentence!). For there is a place that we all can agree is a haven and an outlet for early birds and night owls alike. It is called brunch, and it is glorious.
Jessica Smith is the assistant editor at the Summit Daily News. Staff columns appear every Thursday.