The Early Bird Gets the Chicken Minis

Sunrise driving in Banff National Park

If sleep and I were a Facebook status, we’d be It’s Complicated.

(I know, that’s so 2010, but you get what I mean.)

I used to be able to sleep until 3pm on weekends, no problem. This may have been due to my standard sleeping habits, starting with the night before my first day of high school, when I stayed up past midnight to finish a project I definitely didn’t need to work that hard on before waking up early for school the next day.

This sort of schedule has never meshed well with the kind of person I am (a sleepy one), yet the pattern then continued for the next eight years; staying up late led to me rushing out the door to make it to first period throughout high school, me rolling out of my dorm room just in time (debatably) to grab breakfast before class in college.

As my college years progressed, my sprightly freshman eagerness slowly waned into tired senioritis, and I just barely made it to classes that started at 10am. My sleep was catching up to me, and it was not pleased with my behavior.

These days, I often start to feel antsy by 11 on the weekends, knowing I’ve wasted perfectly good productivity hours, hours I could have spent hiking or planning or writing (I started writing this at 7:30am. Inspiration waits for no one.)

And yet, I still need sleep; those days when I do say up past midnight (crazy! What a party animal, you must be thinking), I find myself punching snooze multiple times the next morning, not ready to give up my warm bed and comfy pillow.

Some days I can still sleep in till 11 or 12, and every once in awhile I let myself. My relationship with sleep has always felt like I am constantly defending myself to others who don’t understand why I’m still in bed at 11 on a Saturday. Sleeping in runs in my family, though. We can always sleep more. (I’m finishing this post after taking a 5pm nap, and this is considered perfectly normal.)

I’ve mentioned my love for diners before – take a Jersey girl and stick her in rural New Hampshire, and you’ve got diner heaven – and starting my freshman year of college, I would often wake up absurdly early on Wednesdays to drag myself onto a bus and visit various diners throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. That fall, I was already waking up at 6:45 to make it to my Chinese classes on time – what was a little earlier?

I went on to spend much of my winter break sleeping, of course.

Now out of college and a little less sleep-deprived, I wake up early most days to work out and make breakfast before my commute to work. Children around the country wake up before I do on a regular basis – I see little kids hopping on their school buses in the pitch blackness when I’ve just barely made it out of bed – but I give myself some credit, anyway.

My boyfriend introduced me to Chick-fil-A’s Chicken Minis breakfast last year, when I went skiing with his family in Colorado. We stopped at a drive-thru to grab breakfast, and all he and his brothers wanted were Chicken Minis.

I was skeptical of what pretty much amounted to chicken nuggets wrapped in bread, but I ordered a box anyway. I love Chick-fil-A, so nuggets at 9am couldn’t be the worst thing.

What an understatement. Those chicken nuggets wrapped in bread weredamn good. I became a believer from the first bite.

For someone like me, who often only gets the urge to work on projects after 10pm when I’m already lying in bed half-asleep, getting up early is not a natural instinct. I still sometimes stay up late to finish something or for no reason, and then I hit snooze at least once the next day whether I’m getting up for a workout or not.

There are so many good things that involve waking up uncomfortably early, though: claiming first ski tracks on a fresh layer of powder; beating the crowds at popular national park landmarks; sunrise hikes at chilly hours of the morning to watch an inky black sky erupt into oranges and pinks and yellows from the top of a fire tower.

Sunrise on Mt. Moosilauke, NH
Sunrise on Mt. Moosilauke, NH

And, of course, making it to Chick-fil-A before they stop serving breakfast at 10:30. (This is difficult when the nearest one is far away, OK?)

The holidays always remind me of years of waking up at 6 on Christmas mornings, speculating about presents with my brothers, our sparkling anticipation mounting for three hours before our parents actually allowed us to go downstairs at 9. As the years have gone on, 6 has become 7, 7 has become 9:30. Like I said, sleeping in runs in the family.

So this holiday season, I’m sleeping in as much as possible, and I’m sure I’ll head to bed at 12:02 on January 1st. Though I might also get up at the crack of dawn for a few ski turns this week, too. It’s about balance, right? There are some things worth getting up for.