I read this article by Rica Bolipata Santos in my college orgmate Quel's Multiply, and there was something about the relative simplicity and neatness of the essay that reminded me just what exactly was important to me: friends. And I make no distinctions between friends and family at this point - my family, the crazyamazingwonderfulirritating family that I have are my friends - and my friends are considered family. There is a very good reason why I call my sisters as such, even though in terms of blood, I only have one biological sister. This is why the term "friends" matter, and why the term "best friend" matters even more.
My rule of thumb is this: if I feel strongly about someone enough to be willing (at least in theory) to jump in front of a ten-wheeler truck in order to save his/her life, then he/she is already considered a friend. We throw out all these terms and labels to categorize people, you see, without really remembering that the act of naming lends power to the one being named, and so when you say that someone is your friend, oh boy, you'd better be serious about it. And when someone calls me his/her friend, then there is already a level of expectation - not the same kind, of course, as what you'd expect from a romantic relationship, or a marriage - but you do expect a semblance of loyalty, of trust, of wanting to keep in touch.
And this is why living away is difficult - the bonds that you've created when you're in the same geographical location is strong because there is an assurance that you are just there. Being away throws an entire spin into things: you are not sure just how long people will keep up the charade of keeping in touch. As the article says, it's the survival of the fittest. And there have already been casualties - loss of friends through silence, through the unerring non-effort and apathy that characterizes most of our lives, of looking inwards instead of outwards, of forgetting that yes, we do need people, and that they do matter. Nostalgia is all well and good for remembering, but if you can't be bothered to do something about the present, to keep in touch, to send at least a small note saying, "You are missed. You are loved," then it doesn't really matter at all.
I think I just got really lucky when it comes to friends - they have proven, time and again, and particularly through the course of my time away from home, that they are people in whom I have placed trust and loyalty and faith in, and they did not let me down. I am proud that they are in my life, and I'm glad that I am in theirs. And in the end, this is what makes life richer, more varied, more worthwhile. God is with us, really, during the times that we are apart. ^_^