Morning Person Q&A

Adam Brayton

It’s 6:30 a.m. and it’s dark. Still, the lights are on around campus, and students are awake and hard at work in the Baker Ferguson Fitness Center and Penrose Library. These aren’t people pulling all-nighters, but people who wake up and get straight to business. This is a look into the lives of morning people.

MEL NOTARI

Mel walks into the library in her sweats and sweatshirt, walking out of the rain tired but with intention. She’s right on time for something at 7 a.m..

How are you feeling this morning?
Feeling good, a little groggy. I haven’t had my caffeine yet.

What has you up so early?
Today I’m meeting a partner for a group discussion leader activity and the only time we could meet was 7 a.m.

Do you usually wake up around this time?
Sometimes I wake up early if I have a lot of homework to do because I find I’m not really productive at night after a hard swim practice. I’m more productive if I go to bed early and then wake up early to do my work.

How early do you have to swim for the swim team?
I have morning practices on Wednesdays during the week and also on Saturdays. During the week, just one morning practice a week for me, from 6-7:30. I normally try to roll out of bed at around 5:45 for those and lose as little sleep as possible. On Saturdays, they are either from 8-10 or 10-12, so it’s not that bad on the weekends.

Do you feel that swimming prepares you for all kinds of early-morning work?
Yeah, it’s definitely hard to get up and be at the pool by 6 a.m. and be ready to get in the water. That’s probably the hardest part. Getting in the pool. So waking up and putting on my sweats and walking to the library is nothing really in comparison.

How early did you wake up to be here now?
I hadn’t done the readings yet, and last night we got back from a meet pretty late and it’s hard to get work done on the swim team bus. So I did some work last night but found I was just really tired from the weekend. So I got up at five this morning to finish the readings and be here by seven.

 

SYDNEY CONWAY AND LEA BAKER

These two seniors, veterans of the morning shift, have been on the job for the past half hour. They’re currently chipping away at folding a pile of towels.

How long have you been working this shift?
SC: I’ve been working this since my sophomore year, and now I work it every morning––Monday through Thursday, when the gym opens this early.
LB: I’ve been working this shift since second semester my first year. Not every morning, but I do work this early three times a week.

What kind of people come to the gym when it opens?
SC: Professors, coaches, some students. We have some students who are in every morning, 6 a.m., on the dot. There’s actually a new program that they’re doing right now which is at 5 a.m. for faculty and staff. So now we come in and we’re not even the first ones in anymore. There’s about eight of them already here. They open the gym for themselves, and they staff the gym and also work out. It’s great for them, but it’s still a little weird to walk in and have them be here.

Do you take on tasks left over from the night before, like towel-folding?
LB: Every shift we’ll do about two loads of towels. And also, it’s basketball season, which means we have more laundry than usual because we’re cycling towels from [Sherwood Athletic Center]. So we clean their towels from their night practices, and their jerseys. They actually practice early mornings, too.

How early do you get up for this shift?
SC: I get up at five, and then I come out here by 5:50. People don’t like it if the gym opens late. I drink coffee, take a shower, then come here.
LB: It really depends on when I’m going to go back to my apartment after the shift. Because then I’ll either wake up at 5:15 and get dressed and brush my hair and then I’ll come here, or I’ll wake up at 5:30, roll out of bed and get over here.

And then you’re here from 6-8 a.m.?
LB: Yeah, so it’s actually a really wonderful time frame to wake up and get the morning going.
SC: I feel like by 10 a.m. … I’ve done so much. I’ve already worked; I’ve showered; I’ve had class; done some homework; and the rest of my house is just getting up.
LB: And you get to see the sunrise! And not because of an all-nighter, even though now the sun doesn’t rise until 8 a.m..
SC: It’s still dark when we get off work.

Is there a trade secret to getting up early?
SC: Go to bed early. When I have to work those four shifts each week, I can’t go to bed at one in the morning and then get up at five. If I do that, by Thursday I’m just a zombie. I have to go to bed early and make sure I get enough sleep.
LB: I think part of it for me is that I got on the shift freshman year, because in high school I always woke up at 5:30 to make the commute to school.
SC: You just have to make it a routine. It can’t be something special you do once a week.

How do you reconcile an early schedule with nightlife on the weekends?
SC: I definitely end up staying up later and sleeping in later on the weekends. It’s not really a problem for me to switch between the two.
LB: I do feel like I’m not as social because of it, because even if I’m staying out late, by midnight I’m really tired. The good thing is most events do start at nine.

 

SPENCER MAY

Spencer is entrenched in his usual spot on the third floor of the library, with a spread of biology and chemistry materials about his work station. It looks like he’s been here for a while.

What has you up so early this morning?
Right now I’m balancing normal school work with thesis work with studying for writtens and orals and also with fellowship and job applications.

Do you wake up this early on a normal basis?
I started getting up early when I was in high school because I was a water polo player, and either we’d have early morning practices or, more commonly, we’d have practices that go from 6-8 at night. And afterwards I’d be dead, and I’d just go to sleep, and then I’d wake up early the next morning to work. I’ve just found that the most productive hours of the day work-wise are early morning when it’s all dark and there’s hardly anyone around. I’ll get up earlier depending on how focused and determined I am to be productive. So I got up at 4:30 this morning, and I’ll probably be here [in the library] at a similar time tomorrow morning.

Do you find getting your work done in the mornings advantageous?
I wouldn’t say so. Where some Whitman students might stay up late and do work, I just flip my schedule so I get the same amount of sleep but I just go to bed earlier. I wouldn’t say it opens up time later on, but I think Whitman students need blocks of time to get work done, and I just carve it out in the mornings.

You’re here early enough to see people at the tail end of all-nighters. How is that experience, as an observer?
Usually they’re either very experienced at all-nighters or very inexperienced. The very inexperienced people run on adrenaline and so they’re usually pretty focused––they just have one thing that they’re working on––but usually they tweak out. I probably won’t see those people for another week or so and then around finals. But the people who are experienced at all-nighters, they have systems for themselves. Like my friend who is taking one of her 20-minute naps to break up the night so she can jump right back to her work. And when they’re working, they’re cuddled up into it, they don’t move much, and they get it done. It’s fun to see, but I don’t usually talk to them. I might give them a chocolate bar or a fist bump, though.

Would you recommend your particular brand of getting work done to others?
I can’t impose my style on anyone, but I recommend trying it out.