This week I am privileged to visit my husband while he works in Italy! Contrary to my prior post, I did get to visit! Yes, things are always changing in the Navy. We are on base, and I spend my days doing paperwork for my job back home, running, and catching up on some discount shopping at the Navy Exchange. Our evenings are spent out in the town, visiting the sites, and we have the weekend to explore. I had high hopes of renting my own car and taking off out to the city alone, but I soon realized that this was not a comfort zone of mine.

I figured this was as good a time as any to blog, as I have noticed some things while on base and in the city that I take for granted everyday. Number one, I do not speak the primary language. I feel like a fool trying to say hello in Italian, as I know I must sound so foreign. I am light skinned, and I am blonde. I look confused most of the time when I am out and about in the town because I do not know where I am going, or what I am supposed to see, eat or do. As I walk around the city, I feel shy to even make eye contact or speak. I look to my husband when being greeted, and I feel like a meek child. Now, if you know my personality, I am anything but shy. I will go out and talk to anyone. I am never afraid to ask a person I barely know detailed questions about their life. Somehow I get away with it and I tend to make many friends this way. I do not feel so confident in Italy.

The base we are staying on here is like little America. Yes, everyone speaks English, and the facilities are comparable to life at home. However, this is a tight knit community. People here are either working and in uniform, live here, or are married to someone who works here and belong to a number of social networks, have children here, and know how not to get lost walking to the Navy Exchange. I was trying on some athletic apparel today, and I could hear the ladies in the next fitting room giggling and comparing outfits. It suddenly hit me that I felt left out. I felt lonely. I was wondering why I had a pain in my chest today. My husband was off at work, and I was shopping. I had down time. I should be able to relax. However, the culmination of this week, although it has been lovely, has also shown me something I have not felt in a long time, loneliness.  Yes, we all have those days when we feel alone, but usually a good friend is a click or two away.  This trip has made me appreciate the value of friendships and the feeling of belonging, as I have been away from my comfort zone now for almost a week.

I tend to take for granted all the friends I laugh with, spend time with, talk to about anything, and text or call the second I see something or hear something I want to share. I am reminded today that the feeling of belonging is a necessary part of being human. Sometimes we forget how important it is when we are wrapped up in our daily lifestyles by familiar people and hobbies. However, starting off, these things can seem difficult and intimidating when there are no friendly faces. Silly it seems, but I remember starting a new running group in Lake Mary and actually staying in my car while the runners met, until I saw the one person I knew. If my specific friend did not show, I would drive away and run by myself! Nowadays, I know all the runners and don’t mind talking to anyone.

Depression and anxiety can often be triggered by loneliness and a sense of not belonging or feeling lost. General activities that seem everyday to one person can seem so difficult to others just because there is no familiar face beside them. It is easy to forget this and get caught up in our own world. However, the value of belonging is something that is not to be minimized or taken for granted.  Teenagers and young adults are even more vulnerable and often will go to great links to feel a sense of belonging, risking their overall health and future.  Some individuals take their own lives due to not feeling a sense of purpose or belonging.  This can be the core reason behind many mental health issues.

An important part to fixing this problem is recognizing the valuable friendships we do have, treating them with care, not taking them for granted, and working to make those around us feel included.  If we are feeling alienated, it is important to push ourselves out of that comfort zone and remind ourselves that we are not alone.  Every human needs to belong.  Every human struggles with loneliness and the need for meaning.  We are all in this together, and we can learn from one another.