waking up is hard to do

The summer I graduated from high school, I quit my job at a grocery store (something I had promised myself a year earlier I would do after a year at the job) and took a job with the government. Come to think of it, I don’t even know who I was working for, HRDC or Industry Canada maybe. Regardless, the job was to build websites for non-profit organizations. It was a make-work project through and through that seems vaguely communist in retrospect. I got the job through a referral and recommendation of my high school computer teacher (one of the best teachers I had).

This is not to say, however, that I was at all qualified. Nobody was at the time. The web was young and frames where bleeding edge technology. I got a great start at that job. It was slack, fun, and I earned a humorous nickname from my co-workers. What I remember most about that summer, though, is waking up. And I don’t mean some kind of epiphany or religious awakening, I mean waking up every morning.

I started work somewhere around 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning. The job was about a fifteen minute bike ride from my house (a very similar route to the one I had taken on a bus to high school everyday for the three preceding years). I would wake up in the morning at around 7:00 or 7:30 because I was ready to, with no aid from an alarm clock. I would shower, eat breakfast (remember breakfast?), and bike to work.

I remember it being sunny every day. Some days I would wear my walkman and listen to Stranger than Fiction by Bad Religion (out of character for myself at the time). Other days, I would travel without a soundtrack.

I packed a lunch everyday, which I would eat outside with my co-workers (a fantastically odd lot). Since I was making good money and still living at home, I had money to burn. With nothing else to spend my money on other than a Fender HotRod DeVille 410 60 watt tube guitar amp I had been dreaming about (and have since bought), I spent most of my salary on compact discs. The mall was between work and my house and I used to stop by the music store once or twice a week. I remember one day in particular where I bough superunknown by Soundgarden and there where actually two CDs stuck together in the one case. I was like winning the lottery.

It was a good summer I spent there. I had a good job. I worked with interesting people. But what really separates that summer from every other, both before and since, is the mornings. I would wake up every morning feeling rested and looking forward to going to work.

At this point, perhaps a bit of context may help explain why this is so important to me. The first 20 minutes of the every day of my high school career where hellish. I woke up to an alarm feeling like I had fallen asleep only an hour ago. I used to claim illness on days where I just couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed.

Since that summer I’ve had better jobs (and no job at all) but I have never had another time in my life where it was so easy to get out of bed in the morning. Even now, when I have a rewarding and challenging job (often more challenging than it is rewarding, mind you), I still have to fight my way out of bed every morning. No matter how great the hours that follow promise to be, the first 15 minutes of every day are perpetually difficult.

Clearly, there are some factors at play here that are in under my control. Diet, exercise, and going to bed at a reasonable hour would all help, I’m sure. But what I remember so fondly about that summer of pleasant mornings was that it was effortless. The dread of impending morning didn’t drive me to bed every night. I went to bed when I was tired, ate when I was hungry, and woke up in time for work every morning.

I was conscious of it at the time. I knew I had a good thing going on. I can still remember waking up and thinking, “Wow, I don’t mind getting out of bed. This is good”.

Since that summer, this state of waking up with ease has become for me something of a Holy Grail for me. Not so much that I would try to get more exercise, or eat better, which I’m sure would help. Rather, I’m just waiting for a point in my life when it will once again be effortless to get out of bed every morning.