A column from the Alan Archives, July 10, 2019:

I do not know exactly what is going on with me lately, but in a move that goes against everything I was raised to believe was right and good and wholesome, I am finding myself more and more inclined to get up early in the morning. 

It was my understanding as a child that there was nothing more odious you could ask of another person than for them to get out of bed before they were ready to do so. Direct experience taught me that, adult example taught me that, and television taught me that. Everyone is supposed to stay in bed until 10. It’s just human nature! Proposing a 7:15 tee time on Saturday morning is rude. Proposing 6:30 is a war crime. I remember someone at my first job telling me he liked to be at his desk by 7. I didn’t believe him, as there did not seem to be much difference between being at your desk at 7 a.m. and being at your desk at 5 a.m. What’s the difference if it’s before 9:30? Why would you take a job that required such a thing?!

It turns out, though, that mornings are nicer if you’re not frantic from the moment the snooze alarm pings for the 16th time. Who knew? This past weekend, I was at the Farmers Market at 8. There was no line for coffee (nor was I desperate because I had already had some), the giant stroller delegation wasn’t out in force yet, and the vegetables didn’t look par-cooked by the heat. The leafleters were much less aggressive, too, which was an unexpected bonus. (I lobby every year for the same experiment: the Farmers Market should allow dogs and confine the politically-minded to a special park a block away. This inversion of the current policy would improve the market considerably.) 

Where getting up early really shines is on vacation. Leaving one’s AirBnB at 7:30 instead of 10 results, over the course of five days, in what is essentially an extra day of vacation — and that’s before you factor in stuff like how much shorter lines are first thing in the morning, how much more active zoo animals are, how some summer things are better experienced before the sun is directly overhead, that sort of thing. To turn a five-day trip into six just by changing bedtime and realizing that morning bitterness is not compulsory? Yes please. 

I realize that from here I sound like I am reaching the age and lifestyle Billy Crystal once described as “eating dinner at two in the afternoon, lunch around 10, breakfast the night before.” I know this might be part of the cycle of life and all that, but I still cannot communicate to you how revelatory this is, that getting up at 6:30 isn’t really any more difficult or unpleasant than getting up at 10, and there is way more day ahead of you. It’s about what you’re going to do with it more than anything.

I know there are those who will tell you this is just an issue of attitude, but this is not so. Obviously, it is harder to get up if you open your eyes facing a day of yardwork and errands, but there’s more to it. I had a boss I hated in the early 2000s, and I realized just how much partly by how much easier I found getting out of bed on weekends. Gotta listen to what you are telling yourself sometimes. 

I don’t mean to evangelize. Some people tell themselves, correctly, that they prefer to sleep 2 a.m. to 10 a.m., and that they even function better. I’m not arguing that. What I’m discovering is that those hours are not the optimal hours for everyone. It’s as though I never tried running because I was told it was difficult and unpleasant, and then when circumstances forced running, discovered I was great at it and loved it. 

Today I got up early to write this. 

Tomorrow, perhaps I will get up early and think about what other features of life, which I take as fact, might really be things I am wrong about.