My breathing is getting heavy and intense, a headache is starting to remind of itself, my stomach is starting to have its familiar knot, my eyesight is getting blurry on the edges and my ears are beeping. It is the rush hour of lunch at the university and people are chatting cheerfully, lines of people are starting to form in front of all the cafeterias and the smells are filling the air.
I have only one direction in mind. It was there yesterday, please be there today because I didn’t come by car so that option is not there today. I rush through the crowd, half run to the third floor. I see the tiny coffee stand in front of the library and stop to buy a coffee. My mind feels overwhelmed and I almost don’t understand when the barista asks if I want oat milk.
Yes! I sigh in relief. The language center lobby at my university campus is empty of people. The only person I can see is the study counselor sitting in her booth focused deep in her work. She doesn’t notice me when I sit quietly on the green sofa at the center of the lobby.
There is a small glass sofa table in front of the sofa where I put my water bottle and the takeaway coffee that I had bought from the student cafeteria before.
I sit in quiet for a moment and breathe deeply. I love the silence and I can feel how my shoulders start to relax a bit. The only sound I can hear is the typing sound of the counselor's computer. There is no background music, no chatting, no clinking noises of dishes, no coughing.
I take a homemade sandwich from my bag, unwrap it, and take a bite. I let my eyes wander around the space. I see some Erasmus student exchange leaflets and notes about language courses on the sofa table. Two comfy chairs with the same green color as the sofa stand on the other side of the table. Behind the chairs, there is a bookshelf filled with language study books and more student exchange leaflets. On the wall, I can see a bulletin board. There are a pictures of happy young people, apparently enjoying their lives in student exchange.
I eat in peace and enjoy my coffee. Soon my break will end and I have to join the outside world again. I close my eyes for a moment and listen to the silence. My phone beeps. It's time to go. I have recharged my social battery and calmed my sensory overstimulation a bit and I might survive for the next couple of hours at the uni. I hope to come here tomorrow as well.
This break is necessary for me an autistic woman so that I can take a break from the very noisy, stimulant outside world. I have luckily found a silent place to take a break, but there is no guarantee that the place is quiet every day. I can only hope.
Some people think I am weird for not joining them for lunch at the cafeteria. For a long time, I felt bad about it and tried to go there with them. The result was this: I could only eat a few bites, I felt nauseous, my head ached and afterward, I had to leave home early to recover. So today, I don’t feel bad. I cherish my break like it is the most important thing of my day. Because of this, I can continue my studies.
Praise for quiet breaks during our busy days.