Every morning, I’m jolted awake by the harsh sound of my alarm, ringing incessantly until I am forced to leave my deep, dreamless sleep for the cool, dark air of the day. I can feel the imprint of pillow creases on my face, drool sticking to my cheek and sleep trying its best to pull me back in as I blindly grab for my phone. And every single morning, a glaring 6:45 a.m. stares back at me. 

6:45 a.m.: the time I’ve woken up every single morning for the past month. Rain or shine, weekend or weekday, 6:45 a.m. awaits me at the end of my night’s rest like a score awaiting you after you’ve taken the worst exam of your life. Waking up at 6:45 is not easy. Waking up consistently at 6:45, every single day no matter what, is even harder. But I do it every single morning, partly because of the bathroom schedule my roommate and I have created due to both of our morning classes and partly because, even though it’s mentally and physically grueling, I crave the routine that comes with opening my eyes at the same time every day. 

In order to maximize my productivity within my newfound morning hours, I drafted a domestic routine that I’ve begrudgingly come to love. Some highlights include emptying the dishwasher, packing my lunch and watching my current Netflix obsession while I eat my breakfast. As mundane as these tasks are, they’ve come to determine the success of my day. Mornings give me the opportunity to calibrate who I am before I jump from personality to personality throughout the day. In every space I exist within, whether it be class, club meetings or studying with friends, I have a personality curated to serve the specific aspects of that space. And while I choose to spend my time in a state of constant transition, it gets exhausting to change who I am and how I feel throughout the day. My mundane routine gives me a few moments to myself  — moments where I don’t have to pretend or overthink or exist in a state of anxiety. I am free to be me and complete tasks that don’t require me to be at my best. It’s the only time of day where I’m not in a class or in a club or doing something that takes immense energy from my social battery. Those moments — where I am allowed to breathe and not feel pressure to put my best foot forward yet again — let me welcome each day without becoming overwhelmed by the long day awaiting me outside of my apartment door. 

But, as simple as my morning duties are, the acts of waking up, completing them and feeling good about myself are wildly taxing. I’m really not a morning person. Waking up — gathering the strength to pry my eyes open and peel myself out of my bed — is one of the hardest parts of my day. No matter how much sleep I get, my body begs for more and more, making it extremely difficult for me to actually get up. I guess waking up early, for me, is like running a mile. Finding the motivation to run can be difficult on its own, and even when you do start to move your body, the act can be physically, mentally and emotionally painful. But you push and push until you hit a quarter, a half and then one whole mile. After it’s over and you’re catching your breath, having gulped down water and taken a moment to stretch, you can really appreciate how far you’ve come. Running that mile might have been painful and you may not have wanted to do it at all, but you did, and you’re better for it. Waking up at 6:45 is hard and a little miserable, but I push through and force the sleepiness from my head as I get ready for the day. And as I watch the sunrise from my window, cereal bowl in hand and “Gilmore Girls” playing in the background, I truly appreciate taking that time and effort to wake up. 

Last semester, I think the earliest I woke up on any given day was 10 a.m., and while I got three more hours of sleep, I never felt half as good as I do this semester. When I woke up later, I barely had any time before I had to walk out the front door and get started with my day. Within 20 minutes of getting out of bed, I would be sitting in class, taking lecture notes. That brutal and hurried transition was a lot for me and really affected how I saw each day: Instead of looking forward to the simple things, like emptying the dishwasher or making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I would dread the moment my eyes fluttered open after a night’s sleep. I never had any time to myself throughout my entire day; I was bouncing from class, to the library, to meetings and back to class again. There was no time for me to sit with myself and do things that I loved or do things just to do them, free from obligation. Instead, I spent the entire day checked out, existing in a state of perpetual dread as my mind spun over all the work I had to complete and how little time I had. I existed in a cycle of negativity, of continuous anxiety, that motivated me to make a change to my morning routine this semester.

In adjusting to the early morning wakeup, I came to the firm belief that to have a good morning routine, one must have a good night routine. I go to bed at exactly 11:00 p.m. every single night, although the consistency of this can be challenging. I tend to work up until 11:00 most nights, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for myself. But, the missed time I don’t get at night is made up for the way I utilize the early hours of the morning, so as difficult as it can be, I stick to my strict schedule. I do my skincare, sometimes read for five minutes and then settle peacefully into my blankets knowing that I have a buffer before tomorrow’s madness commences. Even though the getting up part is hard, the serene feeling that accompanies my mornings makes it all worth it. At a stage in my life where it feels like I possess a limited amount of time and an unlimited amount of responsibilities, my still, quiet and controlled mornings are a saving grace.

6:45 a.m.: The time’s a little extreme, I know. But, through the struggles of waking up and the sacrificing of a few more hours of sleep, I’ve found a time of day that I love. Not because something happens during it or because it symbolizes an idea. Just because it exists, and I exist, and that’s more than enough for me. I can’t wait to wake up at 6:45 a.m. tomorrow, and the day after that and the day after that. Here’s to my newfound love of mornings and 6:45 a.m.

Statement Columnist Ananya Gera can be reached at agera@umich.edu.