You have a limited time on this earth. There is a small window during which you can experience existence and the various intricacies of life that make us human. An even smaller window exists during which you can experience these things at your leisure, while in relatively acceptable health.
The sad truth is that most people living in that elusive window don’t realize it and act like idiots. They waste precious time that, when they’re old and dying, they’ll long for but never again experience.
Last year, I was one of those idiots. During my freshman year, I figured that the best thing to do with any free mornings in my schedule was to sleep. While sleeping, I wouldn’t have to worry about my classes, my future, the state of political discourse, or the army of pitchfork-wielding old women who had been chasing me around campus. I could just lay down with my eyes closed while my youth slowly decayed in front of me.
My days off went like this:
1:00 a.m.: Realize I haven’t eaten for four days. Eat mozzarella sticks and a burger.
2:00 a.m.: Sleep.
4:00 a.m.: Suffer a horrifying apocalyptic vision.
9:30 a.m.: Wake up and realize if that if I get up now, I can still salvage a day.
9:31 a.m.: Realize that I don’t want to salvage a day because that would mean getting up and confronting an existence I’m not all that happy about. Sleep.
1:00 p.m.: Wake up in a strange hazy cloud. Stumble around my room. Feel acute sense of shame.
2:00 p.m.: Read
And that was life. Sleep was the ultimate escape. On some of these days off, I really wanted to go into Boston to visit a new restaurant or store, but it was already the late afternoon so I didn’t bother.
I didn’t deserve to be a Metro columnist. My hypocrisy was painfully evident. I was telling people to get out and appreciate the moveable feast that is Boston while I lived in a half-comatose state. But this year something changed.
Recently, after moving into the one-and-only Walsh Hall, I found myself awake in bed at six in the morning. It came to my attention that I was slowly drowning in a pool of my own sweat.
I held my breath and managed to surface. After swimming out of bed, I stood next to that stank-bomb, sweat-pool of a mattress and checked the clock. I decided, then and there, that I wasn’t going back to sleep. I was going to do something and then I was going to continue doing something until the nighttime. So, I prepared myself for the day and ventured out onto our fine campus. The first thing I noticed was how few people were wandering around. Then I noticed that the sun was still low in the sky, so I wasn’t being slow-roasted under my clothes. Everything was quiet and perfect. There was a sense of calm that refuted the constant, infuriating clamor of mid-day.
In that moment I realized that Boston, and in turn the world, can only be truly experienced from more than one angle. To visit Boston during the afternoon is nothing like visiting it in the early morning hours. A new era had dawned: The Era of Waking Up Early and Doing Stuff While Also Staying Up Kind of Late and Also Doing Stuff So That A Whole Lot of Stuff Can Get Done and Also Going Into the City A Lot and Loving Boston and Eating Good Food and Reading Good Books and Living A Good Life, But Also Struggling to Stay Awake in Class So Maybe Catching A Few More Hours of Sleep, But Not Too Many Because of All that Other Stuff.
This era was going to be glorious. So upon its dawning I recalled the perfect example of an early-morning Boston experience.
I once took the very first Green Line T of the day into the city at roughly 4:45 a.m. This was so I could catch a bus to New Hampshire, but it still afforded me the opportunity to see the city which I hoped I was getting to know well, from a new light. The nearly-abandoned streets were the perfect playground. There were no crowds, no bustle, just me and the city. The streetlights were still on but the sun’s first rays were just beginning to peak above the horizon, creating a dim, dream-like quality. The music of the city was less cacophonous and more soothing, reminding me of what makes a city beautiful.
When I first woke up I was groggy and unhappy. I would have rather just re-sedated myself and let the sandman perform his remarkably creepy sand-in-the-eyes-while-you’re-at-your-most-vulnerable duties. But when immersed in Boston in those beautiful pre-sunrise hours, it was clear that I had been missing out.
Digression: I won’t pretend everything was perfect because that’s not how life works. I did see a homeless woman talking animatedly to a bag filled with toilet paper (no lie). So always keep your guard up.
As I approach the closing of this, another fine column, I’d like to lay down some advice. Get your eight hours of sleep (six or seven if you’re not a wimp), but then get up and confront the world. Relive an old experience in a new way. Go places where you know there won’t be a crowd. Be a maverick, a hero in your own story. The clock’s ticking on your youth and your life, don’t let it run out before you get your fill.
Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Graphic