When we got married, our first apartment was an adorable, walk-in closet sized apartment. After six months I was going crazy and we moved to a larger place away from downtown Chicago. Despite the tiny size, that first apartment was pretty average for a Chicago city-dwelling couple, and very normal for our peers from our school.
As time goes on I feel much less average. We've shared apartments with other couples. We've lived in tiny places. I've lived without a car. We've often lived in what others have considered the wrong side of town. When the space demands it, we put furniture that's usually in a certain room of the house in a different room of the house just to make it functional.
Post-baby we were not only still apartment dwellers but also didn't have a room for Judah. He only just got his own space.... in the laundry room of our new place. The new place is absolutely wonderful, and still in our theme of tiny. It's also a back house on someone else's property.
The whole American dream idea of a house with a white picket fence and three rooms to grow your family into is..... not happening.
We live strangely. We make it work. You can always make things work. In some ways, I'm happy we live differently than the average, different than the expectation.
I've been ashamed, though. When I moved it Dallas and felt like I was entering the "real" America that I found so intimidating and different than my own culture, I was embarrassed to invite anyone to our apartment because I was convinced we were living so differently. What I've missed most in living with roommates and in living in tiny spaces is the ability to host. We almost never have a kitchen table to sit around with guests, and we rarely have a room to put friends in if they come through town.
If I were given a choice, I would of course love to have had a higher standard of living. A nice two to three bedroom apartment in a great location? I'll take it.
Taking those things, though, would come at the cost of the goals we're trying to meet in life. Getting enough education, working overseas; these things require living cheaply, having a mobile lifestyle, and being willing to be different than the average.
And so we make odd arrangements work in order to have a child and finish up seminary at once. Having grown up overseas, both of us are used to making it work, and that's okay. It could be that we'll always live strangely, by American standards.