Let’s talk about LEGO, Baby

Elizabeth Chin, Staff Columnist

Hello, and welcome to my exposé where I will cover all aspects of my life that I hide from the general public. Now, I should clarify that I am more introverted, but I’m working on opening up, hence the existence of this column.

During freshman year, I went to the quiet room during every free block and while it may be partially true that I was adjusting to the intense–and torturous–rigor of the Upper School (US), 14-year-old me was scared to socialize. I acted certain ways around different people, catering my own personality to the desires of my company.

I still compartmentalize the many facets of my identity so no one can see me at my most vulnerable self. Of course, my sister and close friends know me well, but they most certainly do not know everything. Considering all the uncomfortable moments where I’ve gotten to the cafeteria before my friends, being shy allowed me to observe people, and what I’ve learned is that only people who are unapologetically themselves are truly unburdened by social anxiety.

So, through this column, I hope to get an inch, even a centimeter, closer to accepting myself and living freely so that I can sit in the cafeteria by myself without having to go on my phone to look busy.

To start, I’d like to share a hobby that I have kept very private: LEGO. Yes, I am still obsessed with a kid’s toy as a junior. LEGO has always been a staple in my life, from admiring my older siblings toying with LEGOs, to finally getting my hands on the pieces and then straying away from the instruction booklets.

I’ve spent hours well past midnight watching YouTube videos of puzzle boxes, reviews, tutorials, and random other LEGO rabbit holes, and I’m pretty sure I’ve watched the official animated LEGO Story at least ten times.

If you take one step into my house, you will see LEGO everywhere; sets like the grand piano and San Francisco skyline sit on display in the living room (aka the ones my parents approve of leaving out when guests come over), and my more coveted sets like the bonsai tree and typewriter are on my desk. After many years of tender fingertips and chipped nails, I have perfected the craft of separating one by one plates: the ultimate test for true LEGO mastery.

LEGO was my first love apart from my childhood stuffed bunny Pinky. If you haven’t learned from reading the column thus far, I know LEGO inside out. There lies great comfort in having complete control and freedom. I would spend nights bottled up in my room, figuring out the perfect placement for all pieces of my puzzle. No feeling was more satisfying than placing the last tile on the top of the puzzle box and running to my mom to give it a spin. The sense of accomplishment after each build was so gratifying. Until it wasn’t.

When my parents realized I was so enthralled by these plastic bricks, they supported me and spent a lot of money in the process, something I took for granted as a child and that later tied me to a sense of obligation. This is not to say that my parents did anything wrong, rather I put pressure on myself, not wanting to disappoint them after they had invested so much in this passion project. When I would build, I would stress about making something more complex than the last, and soon, I couldn’t even finish builds because of my fear of failure. LEGO used to be a place where I could be alone with my thoughts. I remember the excitement of getting out of school on Friday nights because it meant I would have the whole weekend to pull out my drawers and scatter LEGOs all around me and, as a small girl sitting at the hub of endless possibility, build, build, and build some more. LEGO became my escape during difficult nights of my parents fighting and was a break from having to navigate the world without knowing my place in it. I felt safe and in control, unburdened by the reality that I can’t control everything. The reason I don’t tell many people about my long-standing, on-and-off relationship with LEGO is for two reasons: I’m embarrassed to share my un-adult-like hobby with the world, and I don’t even know if LEGO brings me joy anymore.

Sure, I still pull out my LEGO drawers occasionally and simply build, but often I feel the subtle urge that I must craft something gorgeous and remarkable, something that reflects my own worth. It’s not always worth it to bring up something that I have such complicated feelings for–even if that thing is a piece of plastic–because, at the end of the day, it hurts to leave something behind that was once so comforting through your formative years. Nevertheless, LEGO is and always will be my first love.