I’m embarrassed to even admit it.
For so much of my life, night was when I came alive. The itch, to go out or get up to no good or stay in and get wild over tall boys and splatter movies, would start up the minute the sun went down. I idolized those ragged hours between 2:00 AM and dawn, when only drunks and misfits and Things That Go Bump were on the streets and you had to know where to go to get a decent slice of pie.
But this was also a time in my life when I fetishized suffering. Marching through the snow and rain to reach a bar I was reviewing for $20 was the norm. The boots I wore chewed my feet into bloody calluses. And mornings? Hangover time, a recovery period in which feeling absolutely wretched was a rite of passage. This, I surmised, was what life was all about, a dull throb of agony surrounding a nihilistic worldview and a towering alcohol tolerance.
In my old age, comfort has become a priority. A cup of Irish coffee and a vampire movie on the couch is my idea of Heaven right now. Part of it, I’m sure, is just that my body is slowly rotting away as I crest and look over the hill. But more than that, I no longer take solace in feeling bad. The idea that pleasure is earned through exhaustion and anger seems silly to me.
One part of that comfort is hearing myself think, and there is no better time to do that than at the crack of dawn. The world is misty, cool, and quiet; the night dwellers have all crept back to their coffin-like apartments, but the Average Joes aren’t yet awake and bitching about the headlines. My brain is not yet caffeine-charged or e-mail-choked. It’s not necessarily a virtuous time, but instead an honest one—whether I go for a run or sit around listening to music, that’s up to me. The World At Large has yet to stumble into the room asking what time it is.
This comes at the price of being cool. Early morning is the ultimate adult portion of the day; rarely is it truly fun in the youthful sense. This is especially apparent when I witness people in their twenties, who are reveling in the life I used to live. Their enthusiasm and struggles are amusing; when they say it’s only midnight, I feel like laughing in their faces and telling them which restraints they actually should be struggling against. But that sounds like the life of a grampa, an old man who doesn’t care about being uncool because he’s so far out of the game.
The thing is, I’ve been there. I pounded the shots, smoked the joints, made out with the beautiful young women up against the plywood construction barriers. And I did all that at the time because it felt right, and because I was going to follow my gut no matter what the responsible adult world had to say. So why should I worry about the opinions of the cool kids and tastemakers now that they’re the ones judging me? Let them fight for their right to party—I bear the scars of my own battle, and I’m ready to live at peace.
There is a moment in lots of monster movies where the person aiding the monster in his/her dubious plan realizes that they either picked the wrong side or don’t think the way they used to. That’s where I’m at. The night was my friend, and taught me many incredible things that I’ll always remember. And I will never abandon that part of my life; every few weekends, I’ll stay out until the wee small hours and sleep through most of the next day. But on average, I want the soothing rays of dawn. I want to be as fresh and clear as the first few moments of the day, when the light is cold to the touch and the possibilities are endless.