I'm a night owl forced to live a morning lark's life. Here's how I'm making it work (for now).
For as long as I can remember, I've always loved to stay up late. There's something so magical about the quiet of the night, like anything could happen and I would be one of the few to witness it. Even as a kid I never would go to bed before 2 a.m. unless I absolutely had to. I would read books until I couldn't hold my eyes open anymore, stuffing blankets at the bottom of the door to make sure my light wouldn't wake up my parents. (Related: Hilarious Things You Can Relate to If You're So Not a Morning Person)
Once I left for college, my nighttime habits got even more extreme. I'd stay up all night knowing that Denny's had a breakfast deal starting at 4 a.m., so I could do what I liked, eat, and then finally go to bed. Needless to say, I missed a lot of classes. (Never been an early riser? Experts say you can trick yourself into becoming a morning person.)
Somehow I still managed to graduate, earning a degree in education. When I got my first job as a teacher I finally, for the first time in my life, started going to bed between midnight and 1 a.m.—I know, still pretty late by most people's standards, but very early for me! Then I got married and decided to start a family.
You'd think that once I started having kids, I'd have to ditch my night owl ways out of necessity. But it only cemented my love for nights. Even as a mom of three, I still loved to stay up late—because once the kids were in bed it was my time. I read, watched TV or movies, and spent time with my husband who is luckily also a night owl. With no little ones clinging to me, he and I were finally able to have adult conversations. Since I had left my full-time teaching job when my first was born, I mostly stayed home with my kids, filling in with tutoring or odd teaching jobs to keep my hand in education. That meant I could always find time during the day to sneak in a nap, and still maintain my night owl ways.
And then everything changed. I'd always had a passion for teaching and I knew I needed to get back to it, but I had to find a schedule that would work with my kids. Then I heard about VIPKIDS, a company based in China that connects native English speakers with Chinese students to teach them English. The only catch? Teaching students in China from my home in America means I have to be awake when they are. The time difference means waking up at the 3 o'clock hour to teach classes from 4 to 7 a.m. every morning.
Needless to say, I was really worried about how I would make the transition from night owl to super-early morning person. In the beginning, I'd still stay up late but set my alarm with two different times and put it across the room to make sure I had to get up. (If I hit the snooze button I'm done for!) At first, the adrenaline rush of doing something I loved kept me going, and I wondered why anyone needed energy drinks or coffee. But as I got used to teaching it became harder and harder to wake up on time. I finally had to accept that I'm not in college anymore and to make this work I'd have to finally quit staying up at night. In fact, if I wanted to feel my best I'd have to start going to bed really, really early. To get a full eight hours of sleep I now have to be in bed by 7 p.m.—even earlier than my kids! (Related: I Gave Up Caffeine and Finally Became a Morning Person.)
There are some serious downsides to my new lifestyle: I fall asleep all the time on my husband. I also find that sometimes I have a hard time articulating my thoughts as the exhaustion makes my brain fuzzy. But I'm acclimating to my new sleep schedule. And after accepting my new reality, I've begun to see why some people truly like getting up early. I like how much I get done in my day now and I still get a nice break for me to do what I love while my kids are sleeping—it's just at the opposite end of the clock. Plus, I've found that what all the morning larks say is true: There is a special beauty about the quiet of the morning and witnessing the sunrise. As I'd never experienced them before, I'd never realized how much I was missing!
Make no mistake, I'm still now and will always be a die-hard night owl. Given the opportunity, I'd go back to my midnight musings and o-dark-thirty Denny's specials. But being an early riser is what works for my life right now, so I'm learning to see the silver lining. Just don't call me a morning person.