I have never enjoyed waking up early. In my opinion, it is pure cruelty to wake up at the crack of dawn, haul myself out of bed and leave the comfort of my pillows and blankets. I have slept through my fair share of alarms, shown up late to school on too many occasions and once even missed a train ride because of my inherent inability to wake up on time. That is why, this summer, on the day before freshman class registration, I was nervous, anxious and overwhelmed by the idea of having to select my classes at 7:00 a.m. the next morning.
But the following day, I woke up hesitantly at 6:15 a.m. in a room on Lake Placid, which luckily provided a beautiful landscape but sadly came with spotty wifi. Half-awake, with blurry vision and bags under my eyes, I logged into my computer and got ready for the registration race ahead. And, when the clock finally struck seven, I rapidly clicked the “register” button, anxiously awaiting my class results. Just my luck, my computer lagged at the last second, and I was unfortunately waitlisted for three of my top classes. Despite the disappointment, I recomposed myself, altered my schedule and registered for different, available classes.
Here I am, four months later. I am now 11 weeks into my first semester of college — a semester that has felt like a never-ending continuous time warp. It has lasted an eternity but has simultaneously also flown by. Although the same week seems to repeat itself over and over again virtually, I can also feel the time dissipating. And, as more time passes, I still feel like I haven’t accomplished anything truly noteworthy. It is now mid-November, the leaves have already changed from green to yellow to red, and the sun sets no later than 4:30 p.m. every day. Yet I am still here, still at home, still on my computer. I want to slow down the time. I want to catch my breath. I want to challenge myself. And I want life to challenge me.
Yesterday morning, just like registration day on Lake Placid, I woke up well before the crack of dawn, but this time, it was to go watch the sunrise with my friends. No alarm needed; my internal clock surprisingly woke me up. And, at 5:45 a.m., I got into my car and drove 20 minutes to a nearby park on the water.
When I got to the park, my jaw instantly dropped as my eyes fixated on the view. The horizon was a silky orange, and the sky was a purple masterpiece, its vibrant hues gently reflected in the ripples of the water. My friends next to me transformed into silhouettes, surrounded by large dark trees with intricate branches. And, for a few moments, I felt like the world had paused. Like everything had ceased to exist. Just me, my friends and the sunrise. A sense of comfort, normalcy and support. I know it sounds cliché, but as we sat there, soaking up the sun, I felt like there was nothing else in the world.
All my stress from this online semester, along with my concerns for what will happen in the future, had temporarily vanished. As opposed to my distressed-self from class registration day, I was now feeling peaceful.
We sat on the rocks, watching the sun quickly emerge from the horizon. Soon, it was shining upon us, brighter than I could have ever imagined, officially marking a new day.
As I reflect, I think to myself: How is it possible that an everyday occurrence, like the sunrise, can be so astounding? I realize that yes, time always passes, and evidently, we don’t always notice it. Yet it is important to remember that we are the sole deciders of what we do with our given time. We write our narratives, and we control our own perspectives. Personally, I’ve decided to cut back on my relationship with my computer screen and savor my time with the outdoors.
In a world where so many things are out of our control, I have to start grasping only what is in reach. I can’t control the sunrise, just like I can’t control whether COVID-19 will finally allow me to step foot on my college campus. However, what I can do is to enjoy the present bit by bit. I can see my friends safely, forge new bonds and make new memories. Like I said, I cannot control how the sun rises, but I can ensure that the sun shines on me.
Sometimes, even if we don’t want to, we need to wake up early, ditch the warmth of our pillows and blankets, and haul ourselves out of bed. Amid these dark times, we need to fill ourselves with light.
Gabriel Lesser is a freshman from Westchester, N.Y. studying Neuroscience and Romance Languages. His column explores his past memories, along with current reflections and lessons that he has learned.