December: Racing the Sunrise

My favorite time on campus is 7:00 am, just before the sun has risen along with the clamor of sleep-deprived college students stumbling to the gym, the dining hall, or class. I have always been an early sleeper and early riser. From 6:30 am dance practices on weekdays to early morning debate rounds on the weekends, you’d think my parents would let me sleep in during summer break. But I never slept past 9:30 am; always too many things to do, someone to meet, somewhere to be.

Campus just before dawn

College students have much more autonomy to set their own schedules, and consequently many shift their schedules a few hours back. But not me. My earliest class isn’t until 9:30. I have nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no one to meet at dawn. I skip out on late-night parties because I’d rather race the sunrise.

Of course, I still get FOMO. When the kids on my floor are in the common room bonding over their night out clubbing, I silently continue my class readings. I’ve tried attending parties, but my body physically drains past midnight and it’s a fight to keep my eyes open. Worst of all, I shudder at the thought of losing hours the next day because I need to sleep in (I’ve had nightmares of waking up in the afternoon).

I’m learning to accept that I’m just not wired like the typical college student. Or rather, the typical college student isn’t wired like a healthy, functional human being. My mom tells me good, I was just like you when I was in college. I never went out dancing like the other kids. Scientists and fitness experts rant about the benefits of sleeping and rising according to the circadian rhythm, which is dialed to natural sunlight. Even TikTok’s “That Girl” trend romanticizes the 6 or 7 am morning routine. It’s not my problem; it’s everyone else’s.

Correction: not everyone. A few of my closest friends, in fact, have similar lifestyles. Saturday nights while many students are out partying, I lie contently in bed at 10:30 pm, anticipating next morning’s run with friends to the national zoo or a local art exhibit. #WholesomeContentOnly

Maybe my schedule is too rigid. Or maybe, I’ve simply found the routine that works best for me, and I shouldn’t be guilty of prioritizing my own wellness. Even during Thanksgiving break, I didn’t deviate. There was nothing to prove with falling asleep at 10 pm to a Korean drama or going on a frigid holiday morning run; it just felt good. I may not have gone to New York City, but at least y sleep schedule isn’t messed up — and honestly, that’s a flex for a college student.

But a set sleep schedule did nothing against the tidal wave of emotions that hit when there was no more busy work. The week leading up to break, several friends and I were each riding our own sentimental roller coasters. From friendship drama to heartbreak, in the end we’re all college students, and that means being caught in the game of tug of war between teenage naivete and haphazard adulting.

Like a nerd, I graphed my emotions on a scale of 0-10

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