I am a morning person. I always have been, and I am physically incapable of doing much of anything late at night. When I was little, I would inform my mom when it was time for me to go to bed. Nobody else gets to work until at least 10, but I wake up at 6AM to arrive by 8:45. My early-morning productivity, however, comes with a hard 10:30 bedtime.
These days, the type of ‘person’ I am is irrelevant. I have to be an all-day person- wake up at 5:45 (allow myself 5 minutes to hide under my blankets), get dressed and out the door to the gym by 6:15. Work out, shower, get ready for work in the locker room, then head to MCAT prep class by 7:45. Sit in my car and review my notes until 8:45. Take notes and listen intently to instructors from 9-12. Head immediately to work. Eat lunch at desk, sifting through the last 24 hours of emails and creating my daily to-do list. Spend the hours between 1pm and 8pm working, doing MCAT studying during periods of down-time which vary day-to-day. Caffeinate as often as possible, but only until 4pm otherwise I won’t get any sleep that night. If necessary, work remotely from 8-9pm at home while also making dinner, packing lunch for the following day, and doing homework/pre-work/reading for class.
9-10pm varies. Sometimes I say ‘fuck everything’ and go to bed, because the day needs to be over ASAP. Sometimes I will do a bit of yoga to wind down. Most of the time, I take the path of least resistance and have a tall glass of wine. I re-watch early episodes of Grey’s Anatomy for inspiration sometimes, imagining myself as a brilliant and competitive intern (before they all died, of course). I know that some of you may think that if i can’t stay up later that I just don’t ‘want it’ badly enough. Or that I should skip the gym in favor of sleeping in a bit. But the truth of the matter is, I had a severe brain injury. Cognitively, I can’t afford to just sacrifice some sleep or endorphins in favor of doing more.
When I start to regret my insanely early alarm (usually the moment it goes off), I remind myself that pre-rounds will start at 5:30. I’m already running late for the rest of my life. I like to think waking up will be easier when I’m excited about the thing I’m getting out of bed for. This is who I am now, and it’s going to mean that I wake up insanely early and go to bed insanely early, and I cannot falter for a second in between. I have stopped caring about how I appear to others long before I had to buy a fancy carrying case for all of my colored pens, long before I started carrying a lunchbox. I don’t think that I cared much about how I looked to my peers before March 13 of 2016, but now I dare someone to try and belittle me for having 17 colored pens. I am going to color-code my way to victory, I’ll worry about being dorky all day over worrying about being alive, or walking again, or breathing on my own.
This is not about how hard my life is, I don’t need anyone telling me how tough I’m being. No, this is not fun, but I am pleasantly surprised by the general balance I have been able to maintain. When I am stressed, without fail, my emotions are all over the place. I have found myself being ‘sassier’ than normal to my loved ones- especially my parents, best friends, and saint of a boyfriend. I have the self-awareness to apologize and think about why I’m so volatile, but I don’t always like the answer. Right now, studying for this big huge life-altering exam makes me worry about not being enough, but this self-doubt spills over to all aspects of my life.
I worry that I’m not ‘committed’ enough to my MCAT studying- should I be pulling all-nighters? I worry that I’m not a ‘dedicated’ employee- does my boss think less of me now that I don’t work 50 hours in a week? I worry that I’m not returning the favor for my loved ones- they have given me the love and support I need to get through this in one piece, and I can’t possibly imagine how I can be doing that for them. I know that these are pretty irrational and I do my best on a daily basis to remind myself of that. This is one of the side-effects of doing something really fucking hard.
But that’s just it- I’m doing it. I am not sleep deprived, I am not constantly sick, I have my mental health (reasonably) in-check. I’m doing it.