Thursday nights, where will you find me? All of my friends know- the Grizzly Rose in Denver, Colorado. I’ve been line-dancing there since I was still in middle school and had to go on Sunday nights with all the other under-aged kids. Back then, I only really went whenever a big group of my friends were going (and when my mom was free to chaperone, of course). Once I got into college, it became a way for me to connect to some of the new people at my school. Going to Regis meant that I was one of the only native in my friend group- the other people I knew came from out of state, or from cities more than several hours away. I was able to show them around to the local hookah bars, dance clubs, and eventually even the Grizzly Rose. My friends quickly became attached to the place and to the style of dancing- with line-dancing, you don’t need to have a partner to let loose and have a good time, but there still remains that possibility of two-stepping with a cute cowboy if you’re in the mood.
As an autistic adult, I live by my routines. In a whirlwind of new friends, new classes and new experiences, dancing became my go-to rock. I could always rely on at least one of my friends being willing to go out and get down. It doesn’t seem like the best of places for me to have latched on to- I am usually not a fan of loud noises, and I absolutely hate when people I don’t know touch me. Dance halls of any time tend to have plenty of those two things going on- but it was the one thing that I knew I could rely on. So I forced myself to see it in a new light.
The music when I go dancing is loud enough for me to ignore everything else around me. I lose myself in music I wouldn’t normally listening to if I wasn’t line-dancing, and focus entirely on the different repetitive steps of the dance. I focus on the faces of my friends (many of whom are friends because we see each other every single week, I don’t see them any other time!) and I melt into the experience of having a great time. I take pride in being able to do all the dances well and have an even better time when I am able to start dances, conforming a little bit of everyone elses’ routine to mine.
Dancing once a week is a wonderful exercise, both for my mind and my body. I get to work out (mostly my calves and thighs, if we’re being honest) by having fun. I get to sweat out the stress of the week and feel good about myself through the skill I’ve acquired through dancing for so many years, and by feeling attractive and wanted (even just my friends wanting to be next to me) in a public space. It’s a time of the week that I’ve carved out for myself that is wholly dedicated to self-care in a way that works best with my own neurotype, my own weaknesses, and plays to my own strengths without sacrificing the precious little time that I have to spend with my friends and be with a community.
There are plenty of ways to put a little bit of ‘me’ time into your week without the need to carve too much ‘alone’ time as well. My mantra of multitasking smarter, not harder, applies to this as well. By making a time of the week that is both ‘me’ and ‘we’ time, I get to spend more time with the people who mean the most to me without sacrificing my own mental health. It’s hard being a young professional, having to balance enough work to survive on with enough me time to wind down in as well as maintaining healthy, lasting relationships. For me, dancing together helps balance some of that out, bringing benefits to all involved.
Which, if I’m healthy in my personal life, I’m much more likely and willing to apply more of my energy to my work- to my writing, to my networking, to my day jobs. Keeping oneself healthy in mind, body and soul is one of the best things you can do to further your own career and life goals.
Readers: what things do you do every week to lower your stress levels? What new things would you like to try to fit a little ‘me’ time in your ‘we’ time?