I’ve recently come to realize that friends are far more important than I ever realized. I therefore regret not really having any. I have always been surrounded be people who cared about me, and whom I cared about. But for some reason, I’ve never considered many people to be more than just acquaintances. This isn’t to say I’ve never had friends. I mean, I guess I have.

My recent move to the desert certainly changed my life. I’ve entered a phase in my life that, so far, seems will be devoid of any really close relationships. The rules governing what I do require that I keep most of my life to myself. Interestingly enough, I thought I had done this all my life voluntarily. But now that I am forced to, I realize even having a little freedom in this is not to be taken for granted.

In the past few months, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about romantic relationships, even trying my hand at a few. I told myself a year ago that I was done with them. I knew my new life would make things difficult to maintain one, never knowing where I would be, how long I’d be there, how much contact I’d be able to maintain, etc. I had hoped the relationship I was in would be able to last a few more years (we’d already been together for two years) in spite of the fact we would have minimal physical contact and be separated by literally thousands of miles. It turns out I was only kidding myself.

Within a few weeks of my initial departure, while I was training for this new venture, new prospects were being pursued, and I was being phased out of the picture. Though I’d figured this would be the case, the reality of it hurt me, and despite being in the best shape of my life, I didn’t have the strength to deal with it. I hung on for as long as I could, but finally lost my grip. It’s been two months without any contact. Next month would have been three years.

I took for granted what I had in that relationship. Without it, there’s something missing. It’s not the physical contact. It’s the staring into one another’s eyes, communicating everything without saying anything. It’s the closeness, the warm breath on the back of my neck. It’s the scent on the pillow when I roll over in the morning. Most importantly? It’s the thought of someone out there caring about me, about what I’m doing, about how I feel. And it’s the reciprocation of those things.

To know someone — anyone — cares about you, and to have them know you care about them. That’s what gives us a purpose in this life. That’s what gives us a place in this otherwise meaningless existence. I feel lost because I don’t have that now, because that’s what gives us hope and direction: the idea that, perhaps, if I weren’t here, a piece would be missing from this complex jigsaw puzzle of life.

Author: Matthew

U.S. Marine Corps officer living in North Carolina. The views expressed here are my own, and are in no way intended to represent the United States Marine Corps, Department of Defense or any of its components.

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