I’ve Rented Some Pretty “Bad” Apartments — This Is Why I Don’t Regret Them

published Jul 6, 2023
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Bathroom with white wooden cabinets, glass-enclosed shower and square mirror above sink in vacation rental apartment
Credit: Toyakisphoto/Shutterstock

My first-ever apartment was in the Bronx. A couple of friends and I squeezed into the tiny two-bedroom, promptly — and illegally — converting the living room into a third bedroom. 

I vividly remember the time we discovered a flying cockroach in the kitchen of that apartment. (Truly, the only thing worse than a cockroach is a cockroach that flies.) In our panic, we decided that instead of simply squashing it, we would catch it in a sandwich bag and throw it into the alley from our window. I don’t think I ever slept there again without imagining its family members skittering under my bed.

From there, I headed home to Austin and lived in an apartment near the University of Texas campus with a couple of other friends. Once, I went to grab a shoe off a shelf in my closet and a cockroach fell out. (Are you noticing a pattern yet?) On many occasions, the elevator in the building broke due to underage students pregaming a little too hard on their trip to the lobby. I brought my grandma to see my place when the elevator was actually operating, and still, the sticky floor was littered with cheap beer cans. Oh, and my car was towed twice due to misleading signage, after parking in the same spot for three months without any problems.

These memories add up to only days, but they represent eight years of living in seven different less-than-ideal apartments. It’s cliché to say that these experiences have built character, but it’s cliché for a reason.

I grew up in the upper-middle-class suburbs. Every day came easily to me, thanks to a dad who worked harder than he had to and a mom with the most generous heart. That said, it was my past landlords who taught me how to work with difficult people better than any group project, while every surprise cockroach taught me how to stay (kind of) calm in the most tense situations. (The only lesson I learned from being towed is that towing companies suck.)

I can’t tell you I wouldn’t have upgraded in a heartbeat if I could have — this is the kind of gratitude only hindsight can provide. But I can say that I’m incredibly proud of the creativity and persistence I’ve developed to appreciate wherever I am. 

Today I live in a builder-grade home in Central Austin with my husband, toddler, and mom. It was built in 2014 and is cockroach-free. It’s quiet except for the sound of the train in the distance, and we can park wherever we want. I still feel nostalgic for our last apartment, which had no central air and required us to go outside and around the building to do laundry. (That place also felt like a treehouse when we left the windows open all day for our cats to sunbathe.) Still, no matter where we are, our address only defines where we live to the mail carrier.