I am quite a positive person. Gretchen Rubin’s podcast “Happier”, where she talks to her sister, Elizabeth Craft, about being happy in the day to day life is something I make time for every week. And they encourage one to get to know ourselves better. Which, as a Questioner, I simply love to do.
At some point, there was a podcast on this topic, as a happy life includes planning our responsibilities in a manner which best suits our nature. I also read about it, thought about it, but couldn’t make up my mind. What’s my nature: am I a “lark” or am I an “owl”?
- I’ve been an owl during my teenage years when my entire family was furious with me for staying up late and, thus, waking up late [valued my 9 hours sleep].
- I’ve also been a lark in my life, as waking up early felt great as it allowed for spending time on the activities I enjoyed, as long as I went to bed early.
- So, which one am I?
I believe that the main reason I can’t tell which one I actually am is determined by the various and different [and blurred] memories I have from my past. Whether or not our nature changes, I search for examples in my past in order to get an overview.
One of my dearest memories from childhood is on a warmth morning [I can’t recall whether it was spring or autumn, but I believe it to be autumn], being on the swings with my brother, when all of the sudden we saw our best friend with his grandmother [or was it his grandfather?] on his way to kindergarten. I must have been about 4 and my brother about 2, as our friend was 6 and we were all born two years apart. It must have been around 7:30-7:45 in the morning and we were out playing. Now, my memories about this may be distorted, but I clearly remember it being morning and sunny and me being very happy to be out and seeing my friend. That is a morning person, friends. Up and running.
I also remember that I was 11 and in the 5th grade when I woke up at about 5:30-6 am to watch TV, paint or do the homework at the subjects I loved [probably not math at this point].
But then, I also remember the times I was a teenager and needed an hour to just get out of bed during the weekends or holidays, which made my grandmother turn from being super sweet and calling me by my pet name at first to being worried that I am lazy and wasting my time sleeping at last [which made me annoyed and decide I dislike mornings].
My parents had similar experiences with me; I was told multiple times that my waking up late will impede being successful at adult-ing as I would never be able to get to work on time without them [now, whether I am successful at adult-ing or not I still have to figure out; one thing is certain: waking up on time is not the big obstacle in my path]. They weren’t mean about it though, they were actually quite worried.
And, sure, they had a reason for it, as my father, who at some point was responsible to wake me up, opened the window in the cold winter mornings [winter in Brasov, in the mountain region, is cold, ok?!] and took away all the blankets; despite the cold, I still laid there for a few more minutes than I should have had, which made getting ready for school hectic.
But I always [almost] got to school on time, overcoming all the accumulated delays through doing more than one thing at a time or not doing it at all [I am sure it was bad, but except for getting in arguments with whatever friend I went to school that day, I don’t remember the consequences. And I am still friends, good friends, with these people, so I manage to surround myself with understanding humans. Lucky, I tell you, lucky].
But you see, when I woke up late, I usually went to bed late. I used to spend my evenings reading, watching TV, doing sports or homework because it was the only time I felt I could be quietly by myself. My family usually woke up before we, kids, did and my brother always got up before I did, so, if we were both at home at the same time, there was no alone [or quite] time for me. And I also needed some privacy. At the same time, let’s not lie here, the cool kids were going to bed late and woke up late. I just wanted to be cool. It annoyed everybody.
To this day, with all my waking up early and on time and by myself, my family [especially my brother] still considers I go to bed late and then I wake up late. The boyfriend, on the other hand, is used to me going to bed by 22:00 and waking up before 8:00 am. They all know I love sleep. Which I do! But how do their observations inform me of my nature? If something, I feel more confused as they all are right!
I come to learn that knowing how my body and mind work at different moments of the 24 hours of the day is important when labeling myself “lark” or “owl”. For instance, am I more energetic during the morning or during the evening? Am I happier in my life when I wake up early or when I go to sleep late? Am I functioning better in the early morning or in the late evening?
- Well, I am more energetic during the morning if I slept more than 7 hours. If I sleep more than 10 hours [it happens, yes], then I am more energetic at night. But the time I spend sleeping is influenced by my previous activities: the more activities I engage in, the less sleep I get and then it comes a time when I have to recover.
- I am happier in my life when I get done what I want to do. Now, I mostly do things only if I want to do them [part of being a Questioner]. This means that I do the things I like and the things I have to do as long as I understand why they are important and agree with the reasoning [yes, I am super fun to work with. I don’t ever question decision making processes (I’m just kidding here)]. I am happier to wake up early when I need to get working on something of value to me [like my thesis or enjoying my tea while stretching]. But I am also happy to stay up late binging on some TV series I am interested in.
- Now this third question is a tricky one. I believe I function better in the morning. BUT! There is a big BUT! I do a lot of things in a day, like so many other people do. By the time the night comes, I am too tired to do productive work [I am a researcher, I need to read/write, talk to people and operate software for the life I enjoy]. So, when it comes to my job, I function better in the morning as I am rested and able to focus my energy into what I need to do.
However, how do I know that I wouldn’t function better at night if I were rested then?
You see, this is a complicated issue, but of great importance to us, those who want to do focused and qualitative work. How much we sleep and when is influenced by how we organise our day. On the other hand, the manner in which we organise our day will influence how much and when we sleep. Even though they are interconnected, I am in a phase when I prioritize sleep, so how much I sleep and when influences what I do during the day and how I do it.
Given all of the above, I decided to consider myself neither at the moment. Or something in between. I consider myself lucky to be like this, because it allows me to be flexible and thus more prepared for meeting societal standards of value to me. I know not all are that lucky; for one, I feel really grateful to have students on my 8am course who participate and engage in discussions despite obviously having a hard time waking up.
At the same time, I am is a student of convenience and use rational thinking in my advantage. I am interested in living this only life I am given by experiencing what’s valuable for me hoping it translates into value for others. Which implies arranging my schedule in such a manner that I get enough sleep, but also enough time to prepare and show up on time.
As such, given my current commitments, I am an early riser as mornings equal time for myself and myself alone. It’s what makes me willingly give the rest of my day to others. Does it make me a “lark”? [The boyfriend joked it makes me a hen, as from the expression te culci odată cu găinile (you sleep when the hens sleep, it’s a thing in Romanian)]. Maybe. For the time being.
I am not saying my way is the right way. I say that my way now is the right way for ME now.
Get all the sleep you need & Make today count!