Art: Daily Nexus/Anna Wade

I think it’s pretty safe to say that living in Isla Vista is an experience that is unlike any other. From the beautiful location to the diverse and vibrant community that inhabits it, Isla Vista possesses many qualities that we should all be thankful for. However, between the lack of space and large population, one can expect to feel a bit overwhelmed and suffocated. While it can definitely be comforting to be surrounded by people and constant activity, it can also detract from our personal space and solitude.

Each year, as we age, we are forced to undergo heavier and harder experiences. These experiences ultimately lead to our growth and benefit; however, they can also result in a lot of stress and discomfort. In order to combat this negativity, it’s imperative that we have time for self-reflection and thought. Not only does it help to put your mind at ease, but it also allows for a reduction of uncertainty and an increase of clarity. Unfortunately, finding privacy and solitude can be a difficult endeavor in a place like Isla Vista. Last quarter I really struggled with being able to take time for myself and work through a lot of internal conflict. Meditation and mindfulness have been a big part of my life for the last couple of years, but I could feel my confidence, security, and peace of mind slipping away as I was unable to work through my frustration. I hated that fact that I could be so close to the ocean, surrounded by so much beauty, yet still feel so disconnected from my truest self. I was drinking way too much, staying up way too late and essentially running from all responsibility and growth. Finally, I had a wake-up call … literally.

For the last month, I’ve made it a habit to get up early every morning. Being the type of person who can easily sleep in until noon, this was a task that I didn’t take lightly. I’m not going to lie: the first few mornings were rough. Facing the impending doom of my dreaded alarm clock was not easy, and it was even more difficult to harness my self-control and resist hitting “snooze.” Yet, after the initial fatigue and grogginess wore off, I felt a special kind of calm that one can only experience in the early hours of the day. Now, the morning air feels fresh and crisp. The sky is full of bright, golden rays, giving the effects of a halo. However, the sun is not yet at its peak, so there is no harshness, no blinding glare. But, the absolute best part of waking up at dawn is the fact that no one is around.

Being able to walk out onto my back patio and not hear any mindless chatter or blaring music really is a treat. Instead, all I hear is the sound of waves crashing and birds chirping. Having the opportunity to spend the first 30 minutes of a new day in peace and stillness helps to prepare me for whatever may come. It helps to get me centered and places me in a positive mindset, ultimately sending out positive intentions for the rest of my day. I literally go to bed looking forward to the fact that when I wake up, I will get to be in a state of utter peace and relaxation. It’s gotten to the point of where, if for some reason I don’t have the ability to take that time for myself, the entire rest of my day is thrown off and I feel as though it didn’t get off to a proper start. While I enjoy starting my mornings off with a calm mediation, taking an early walk down to the water is also pretty sensational.

There is truly something magical about standing on an empty beach. Getting the opportunity to look at something as grand and as big as the ocean while feeling complete solitude and privacy is quite an experience all on its own. It allows you to reflect, and be humbled, with no distraction or disruption. It allows you to escape reality and get out of your own head. It’s something that is so simple and natural yet so extraordinary. Most importantly, it brings a kind of peace that is not only healing, but also clarifying.

Between hangovers and late-night studying, the idea of waking up so early can seem pretty unappealing. However, if you can make it not only a habit but really a lifestyle, the benefits will tremendously outweigh the costs. I’m beyond thankful that I now get to live each day with a new comfort, knowing that every morning is an opportunity for me to reach new highs and find my truest self.

Allie Lebos wants you to greet the day