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As I woke up this morning and laid in bed, wide awake, I wondered why I should get up. After all, my bed is warm and cozy, while getting up would require a lot of effort. There must be a reason for me to go from a comfortable state to an uncomfortable state. I’m not hungry, I’m not thirsty, and I don’t need to pee, so why should I get up?

My brain came up with the first answer, which was my definition of the meaning of life. “You must exist!” it said. That’d probably be enough for a person who is starving and whose entire life depended on their salary from their job. However, for me, that’s really not that big of a deal. If I didn’t have a job, I’d still have enough money to live for at least another 4-5 years, relatively comfortably. So that thought really didn’t motivate me to get out of bed any faster.

Then, my mind skimmed over the list of things that I “should” do. I’d started scheduling my days in the past few weeks with a planner so I knew exactly what needed to be done. However, for the same reasons above, this wasn’t sufficiently motivating to change my state of comfort.

While this was going on, it’s as if I could observe myself thinking. I could see myself doing this analysis, and thought, “Interesting! I wonder what would be a sufficient motivator to get me out of bed?” Maybe it’s just my right brain (the “big picture” side) observing how my left brain (the analytical side) is working.

Finally, my thoughts centered on what motivated me to keep running these past few months. Whenever I am about half way through my run, there would always be a seemingly unsurpassable feeling of not being able to finish. However, as a mentioned in < Singing While Running, the song Words Like Freedom always seems to pull me through. It’s like the tiredness just fades away and is replaced by a string that just keeps pulling me forward.

As I hummed the song in bed, I felt alive. Perhaps it’s just that that particular memory is associated with so many triumphs in times of internal conflict (both during the times of slavery and times when I overcame my own limitations). It brought me back to the times in college when I took 28 credits / semester and got As in all of them. Why was I so motivated to get up every morning?

After a bit of searching, I started to remember. Growing up, I’d watched my mother work herself day after day, year after year. Every day, she’d get up at 5-6am, and work until around 10pm, making near minimum wage. When she got back home, she’d cook dinner for me while chatting on the phone with some of her friends – her only time of the day for relaxing. She always worked on Saturday, and only occasionally took a Sunday off to buy some food for the coming weeks. Not only did she never complain about her condition, she took pride in her ability to stand up against the odds.

When I finally got to college, my mother worked even harder, having to face the possibility of having to finance the whole thing by herself. You can imagine how long it took her to save the $100,000-$200,000 it required at $10/hour. It was practically her entire life savings!

Having come from a family where spending an extra quarter on laundry is considered bad practice, you can imagine how I felt when I saw my mother spend a few thousand dollars a month on my tuition alone! At that time, it was a sum almost beyond my comprehension. All of our money and our dreams have been put into my college education!

What else can possibly be more important than learning and getting good grades at that point? Any time I felt tired, I would think of my mother, probably working hard at that very minute just to keep me there. How can I not work at least as hard? How can I waste the time that has so preciously been bought by the sweat and blood of one so dear to me?

If we think back, every single one of our ancestors probably made sacrifices like that for us. It’s almost unimaginable how many people have labored just as hard as my mom in order to allow us to be here today.

It’s the ultimate example of unconditional love. Our ancestors certainly expected absolutely nothing from us. They only wanted us to live and be happy, and worked their own lives to do just that.

How’s that for motivation to get out of bed?

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