Waking up early adds peace to students’ lives, enables unique campus discoveries


The librarian gave me a confused and searching stare when, in one of the early weeks of the semester, I impulse-checked-out a book of poems called “Why I Wake Early” by Mary Oliver. At the time, I was unsure why she was staring, but after spending two months here and comprehending campus’s general attitude towards “waking early,” I think I understand it now. 

To pull a Jane Austen, it is a fact universally acknowledged that college kids like to sleep in. The College of William and Mary may be chock-full of quirks — even maddeningly so — but it is not unique in this. Sleeping in seems to be, still, overwhelmingly common. 

I, however, have found mornings on campus to be one of the best kept secrets of the College. You may wonder, then, why I choose to discuss them at all. Why not let them remain a little-known gift? But I have a sense that, regardless of what I disclose here, the allure of the early morning will persist as a relatively well-kept secret. Disregard my advice if you wish. The fact remains: mornings on campus offer unparalleled peace and quiet.  

I’m guessing you could use some peace. I would imagine that you, too, find yourself perpetually pressed by stress as the final heat of election season and the muck of final exams slink steadily closer. The current campus tensions are clear upon simply opening social media, and the vivacity of stress culture these days is evident upon first stepping into Earl Gregg Swem Library. It takes no expert to rule that peace could be classified a missing person on this campus. 

Mornings have been integral for me in maintaining a level head. Rising early and getting out of one’s room, under the right circumstances, is an easy method of finding rest. It’s counterintuitive, I know. It boosts peace, but not in the way you might expect. Not because you can easily find an empty seat in the lounge and grind out the day’s work in pre-dawn darkness and dead silence does rising early maximize mindfulness, although this is true.   

Rather, rising early boosts peace because mornings on campus lavish the onlooker with loveliness. Step outside your dorm around dawn and you will receive, freely-given, a multimedia masterpiece. Relatively empty brick paths ring with the conversations and choruses of campus birds; squirrels scurry to make way for the regal but gentle deer — far less bashful before the masses wake up — to grace the dewy grass. On clear mornings, the day breaks like a runny egg over the roofs of academic buildings and the spires of Williamsburg, dripping golden goodness over the horizon. Even on misty mornings the sunrise can be promising, blooming softly behind clouds and through pervasive fog.   

All this beauty is accompanied by a lack of activity. Sure, there’s the crawl to the dining hall just before 8 a.m., and you’ll catch a couple early runners and bikers. Otherwise, our campus is delightfully still. It is empty of the human hassles that easily haunt daytime hours, yet it is full — brimming, even — with bursts of sound and color. The life of nature gleams out, separate from the stresses that hang like clouds over everyday college concerns. 

Try visiting the Botetourt dock at dawn. Watch the first light dance over the Crim Dell meadows. Walk across the Sunken Garden while stars linger in the morning sky, and I promise you’ll be amazed. Slow down and take in these simple splendors, as silly as it may sound.   

But you can only get out of your head in this way if you actually get out of your bed.  How does one accomplish this, you may ask? I can only answer that you must force yourself to do it: you must want that unfettered time so much so that you will sacrifice sleeping in for it. It is daunting to get up before your schedule requires, but it is worthwhile.

Don’t simply take my word for it.  

Email Sarah Soltis at 



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