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home dreams 
by Yee-Fan Sun
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It's the quintessential American dream, the thing we're each supposed to be working towards: a pretty little property of our very own. Achieving that aspiration of home ownership is a mark that you're finally settling down, becoming secure, acquiring independence; it's the tangible proof that you've claimed your place in the world. This alone might be enough of an explanation for my current obsession. Add in the fact that I've somehow managed to do things backwards -- experience the joys of home ownership first, go back to rental hell later -- and it's no wonder I've got houses on the brain. Forking over rent month after month, I'm growing ever antsier. I want a house. Now.

Part of the problem, of course, is that I've been spoiled. The boy and I were lucky enough to move to Tucson shortly after college, a city that may have been lacking the hip appeal of the big urban centers most of our friends were gravitating to, but had one major advantage: living way out there in the desert sure was cheap. The boy was earning the typical grad student pittance; juggling freelance graphic design gigs while building up Digs, I wasn't exactly raking in the dough either. Still, with the help of a mortgage that was maybe half what our pals in New York and Boston were shelling out to rent their shoebox abodes, we were able to buy a house in one of the city's more coveted "historic" (read: pre-1950) neighborhoods. The place itself was nothing fancy -- though I suppose its garish pink stucco paired with teal trim might well have been "fancy" in quotes -- and with only two small bedrooms, it wasn't the sort of house that we imagined spending the rest of our lives in. But it was cute, and offered the perfect amount of space for the two of us at that point. And most importantly, it was ours.

At 25, we were giddy first-time homeowners, and occasional plumbing disasters aside, the experience was bliss. But when the boy scored a fellowship for a two-year post-doc in Scotland after finally finishing grad school, it was bye-bye to the little pink house. Moving to a new country for just a short time, we knew that buying a new place -- and in the faint-inducingly pricey UK no less -- would have been insane.

Still, a year and a half back into life as a renter, I'm more conscious than ever that I'm living in someone else's space. Yes, the rent is reasonable; the loft-style flat's even kind of funky-cool. Working with someone else's furnishings in someone else's space, I'm proud of what we've done to spruce things up; there's a fair bit of us in this apartment, and despite the fact we won't be here for long, we've made a real effort to make the place feel homey. It's a fine space, a spacious space, and I know how lucky I am to have snagged it.

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