The sound of crickets fills the air before the sun rises over Vassar College. At 5:50 a.m., it’s extremely quiet and calm with few signs of life, except the occasional deer family or Campus Security car driving by. The experience of being awake at 5:50 a.m. is one that differs depending on where you are, but it is relaxing nonetheless.
Last fall, I lived in Jewett in suite 436. Every morning, I would wake up at 5:45 a.m. and make my way to the AFC, ensuring that I was quiet as I left my roommates still sleeping. The bright lights of the dorm building hallways greeted me and forced my eyes to open wide to acknowledge how early it was. For those who live in Jewett, you know that the main door slams rather loudly; with this in mind, I would guide the Jewett door slowly to a close, hoping to not wake the other members of the building with a loud slam. I remember looking up at the big building as I left, acknowledging the four or five lights that were on in rooms facing inwards already, and venturing towards the darkness that lay ahead of me. Making my way across the quad, sometimes I would run into the occasional student or facilities worker, but most of the time, it was just the deer.
The Vassar deer love the area of grass between Ely Hall, Swift Hall and the College Center, and when nobody is around, they are out grazing on grass. I have countless videos from this time and the 15-minute walk to the AFC that I would take every morning. Saying hello to the deer became a daily ritual as I would travel past Main and head towards the bridge to the TAs. I would let my mind wander, and the crisp, cool air of the morning allowed my brain to fully wake up before I arrived at the AFC. By the time I arrived at the AFC, it would be 6 a.m., and by 7 a.m., I would be at the Deece, enjoying the quiet before the roar of the morning crowds.
This year, I live in the TAs, and my mornings, although very similar, are a bit different. There isn’t as far to walk to get to the AFC, and the deer are less prevalent. There are far too many porch lights on for deer to be comfortable hanging around the TAs. With the shorter walk, I find myself enjoying waking up early less and less, as there is no longer enough time to collect my thoughts and reflect before the day begins. Nevertheless, I still get to the AFC at 6 a.m. and get to the Deece at 7 a.m. in time to greet the workers and the three other students who arrive for its opening.
Walking to the Deece at 7 a.m. has now become my equivalent of walking from Jewett to the AFC. Although it is lighter out, it still gives off a similar feeling. Wandering around campus while the majority of students are still asleep can make you feel like you’re the only one to exist at Vassar. There’s something incredibly freeing about it. The air somehow feels clearer, and the sound of the birds evokes something incredibly positive in your spirit. It feels like a movie where you’re the main character and the only person running around in the world of the Vassar Bubble.
Arriving at the Deece at 7 a.m. is an experience in and of itself that only furthers this Main Character Energy. You get to watch the workers unlock the doors and work hard, getting ready for another day of eager and hungry students. There is always a woman who is cleaning the floors on a Zamboni-like machine and a smiling worker at the front to greet you as you scan your ID. Going further into the Deece, you find workers laughing with each other before their days begin and talking about their plans for the upcoming weekend. The only other noises are those of the pipes and grills as the french toast, eggs and bacon cook in preparation for the wave that hits the Deece come 8:30 a.m.. You can feel the calm energy of everyone and the excitement for the new day begin.
Every morning, I go up to Home and greet Jayson Mcphee, the lovely Deece worker who serves breakfast at that station on weekdays. He always has something new to tell me and asks about how my classes are going. Everything feels lighter and less intimidating without the usual roar of the Deece and the stress of having hundreds of hungry students. Early morning Deece is a different place altogether. It allows you to take a minute to breathe before your day starts and to get to know the people who serve you food every day a little bit better.
There’s a whole new side of Vassar when you’re awake before the majority of the students on campus. In a place where it can feel like we’re always running around to meet the next deadline, the early morning provides a space for reflection and calmness. Although waking up early is not for everyone, I highly recommend trying it at least once before you graduate—you never know what you may find out about yourself and those around you during the walks you take at 5:50 a.m. and the places you go before 8 a.m.