Old friends are great to have. People with whom you can pick up with right where you left off. I’ve been around for 32 years. I meet people everywhere and I try to make a real connection with all of them. Occasionally, time doesn’t allow you to build any rapport. Sometimes personalities clash right off the bat and that’s okay, too. There’s nothing better, though, than when you feel you’ve made a friend for life.
In the Marine Corps that happened a lot for me. When you’re forced immediately into seemingly helpless situations, where you’re forced to endure the suffering as a group, you make fast friends. It starts with a similar fear of the unknown. For the enlisted, it starts with that anxiety inducing journey in an unmarked school bus from the airport to the yellow footprints. For officer candidates, it’s a lovely limo ride with fine champagne and delicate cakes. But we’re all shitting a brick about what’s coming next. Then boot camp or OCS happens and we change as men and women. Ultimately, we change with our new brothers and sisters.
When the first step is over, we get the EGA and go in different directions. We meet a new batch of best friends. Then another after that, and so on. We deploy with those folks and we learn everything about them. Not just whether or not they can shoot or run or whatever. We also learn that they used to steal groceries from the corner store because their parents were deadbeats. We also learn that they hate sharing food. We also learn that they probably could have joined the NBA if not for the [insert nearly unbelievable back story riddled with excuses]. But really, we learn that just because the path was different, often very different, we somehow ended up just about the same.
When you get out of the military, you feel alone. It seems like it was all a blip on the radar as you return to your village–the place from whence you came. Your hometown crew are still the same. You love them, because they were there first, and they loved who you were. But you’re not just that guy anymore. You’re that guy plus this guy.
This weird fuckin’ guy.
This guy who worked really hard to be tough and mean for X amount of years in the military, but also the guy who became an emotional souffle in the process. The kind of guy who describes himself as an emotional souffle, and means it, too!
So, you call your “old friends”. The guys who also returned to their village and also feel out of place. You pick up right where you left off. They call you a pussy, or some derivative of that word, and, suddenly, you’re back home again. You’re reminded that you’re not alone. You’re just in a different village now.