“It’s time for a break!” it sounds through the room. A supervisor of the day care where I come announces that it is time again for the time to sit around a table with others. It is meant as a moment of rest, stepping out of work and taking time to relax.
For most people, taking breaks is a moment of rest. For me this is also the case, but not when I do this with people around me. I take breaks by taking a moment for myself. For me this means getting a cup of coffee and going outside to smoke. Because I am one of the few smokers, I always do this alone. Just a moment for myself where I can think about things and have peace of mind from my work.
Social interaction is tiring
For me, social interaction is tiring. Having conversations, keeping them going and dividing attention between different people is a task in itself for me. It is seen as a flaw if I do not take part in the breaks. This is because it would be conducive to my social interaction with people. I understand why this is said, but I notice that it does not offer me any relaxation. And that’s how the break is meant to be. Sometimes I do sit down at the break. It is a learning moment for me. But I notice in myself that I do have some resistance.
It’s not that I avoid all social interactions. After all, you just can’t prevent this. Every form of dealing with people is a form of social interaction. But pauses should give you energy and not cost you.
You’re so on your own!
If I don’t take part in the break with other people, I’m sometimes accused of being too much on my own. It would have a negative impact on my social development. However, people who know me wouldn’t describe me as socially disturbed or incapable. They would say that I can be on my own. Because having conversations and the like can make me so tired, I regularly withdraw myself. This is purely because I try to save energy.
I also take a break to gain energy. If I have to have conversations during those moments, it means for me that I use energy instead of getting energy. But when I step outside and smoke a cigarette, I have some time for myself and I can get some energy.
Fortunately, it is so within the daily routine where I now work that taking a break is not mandatory. So it is not compulsory to sit down at people’s tables. I am pleased about that. It is not a compulsory number to put on. I’m just allowed to keep working on what I’m doing. However, it is one of my goals here to be more in line with the breaks. This to promote social interaction.
Is it a useful goal? Yes, maybe it is. After all, it is a neurotypical skill that allows you to better integrate into society. But that doesn’t mean that I ignore my autistic self. It’s still the case that more often than not I don’t, or I just sit down at the breaks. And I see that several people here do not participate in the breaks.
Although taking a break is important in order to remain productive, in my opinion the form of that break is very personal. For one person this is sitting around a table and talking to people, and for another it is sitting quietly in a corner without people around them. And both is fine.
And so it’s break time. Time for a new cup of coffee and a cigarette. But first we have to sit down at the table and have some conversations. After that it’s a “real” break.