“Better alone than badly accompanied.”

I came across this quote daily after it became my neighbor’s motto. First, it had appeared on all of her social media bios, and eventually, it managed to earn a spot on her bedroom wall written in permanent marker.

Have Your Voice Heard: Become an Odyssey Creator

I had always admired the various phrases of inspiring words that were purposefully scattered across her room, and looked forward to the deep conversation that followed my newest discovery of a quote. My friendship with my neighbors, her and her sister, was one that never took a break. Even though we went to different schools, and may only see one another a month at a time, moments after being reunited, it was as if we had never left each other’s sides. Our relationship never changed; we simply continued our conversations as if no time had passed—something I later realized I would treasure greatly.

Yet out of all of the quotes we’d discovered and discussed, I assumed I knew what “better alone than badly accompanied” meant the most: why waste your time with people who don’t treat you right?

As time went on, I made the transition of being a freshman in college. After my first semester, I finally fully understand what those words mean.

Quality over quantity.

My understanding of ‘quality over quantity’ was only a small fraction of the complex equation I was going to face in college. College is the time to branch out, meet new people, dive into new opportunities, and finally discover your true self that was hidden underneath the layers and layers of repetitive high school requirements. It’s all a learning experience, and everyone handles their experiences differently.

For me, the first few weeks of my college experience were spent being bombarded with information on new clubs and organizations. After that, I absorbed. I laid low and slowly sorted through all of the opportunities in front of me. Occasionally, I attended some events here and there, and only met a few people I felt I could develop a trustworthy relationship with. There was just so much to try, and I didn’t want to rush into anything I’d regret.

As the first few months passed, I noticed that I wasn’t as consumed with activities as everyone else around me was. I started to go into panic mode, and question what I was doing wrong. My alone time I usually spent “thinking” was converted into the time I spent worrying if I was really utilizing my time at my university wisely. What was I doing differently? Why wasn’t I having the same experiences?

I took the time to fully adjust myself both mentally and physically into my new home before I jumped into new experiences with people I barely knew and overwhelmed myself. Taking the time to carefully pick and choose the organizations I wanted to devote my time to based off my interests paid off. It allowed me to create stronger, truer friendships from the start, rather than faking it until I made it like I felt I’d done in high school. In college, I am entirely in control of my choices, and how or to whom I devoted my time.

While I wasted my alone time by feeling guilty for not doing what everyone else was doing, I finally realized my time alone was precious, and there was nothing for me to feel guilty about. By being a bystander during the first couple weeks while everyone else around me chose their paths, I was given the privilege of realizing the importance of quality over quantity. As I questioned if I was participating in events I wanted to do, or events others wanted me to do, I realized who was keeping me sane. It was my neighbors, even though they were hours away. It was the girl I only met the previous week. It was my boyfriend who listened to my try to make sense of my future. College is about making your own path, but finding the people that support you along that path is just as important.

I discovered so much about myself this past semester, and I learned many overlooked life lessons. There are going to be so many people that you encounter who won’t approve of the way you do things, but that’s where my quote(s) come(s) in. In college, it’s easy to be persuaded by the majority, but it’s important to remember that having two or three people who truly support you is more beneficial than having ten who you assume are there for you, but aren’t. The amount of time you’ve known a person doesn’t determine their amount of trust. Sometimes, people you just meet have a deeper understanding of you, and your way of life—it’s a gift.

Finally, being “alone” rather than “badly accompanied” made sense. Sometimes rushing into things isn’t always the way to go, and if you’re uncomfortable, don’t do it. Take the time to make yourself happy first. Give yourself the time, respect, and credit to realize that just because you have a different method of handling life, doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. Enjoying time alone isn’t wrong. Individuality is a gift, and college is the best time to open it.