The Builder’s Block: Finding My Place (Part 1)

Hey People! In this post, I’ll be talking about how I got into LEGO building! Let’s time travel to when I got my first LEGO set: it was a LEGO board game, with a couple minifigures and basic bricks. The board game was shortly followed by a hefty bag of counterfeit-LEGOs (which were much cheaper than real LEGOs, but of a lower quality), a Creator 3-in-1 house, and a Winter Village Bakery.

When I got bored of building with instructions, I started doing what I’ve heard some people call “free-building,” or building without instructions. I call these MOCs (My Own Creations), which is the term commonly used by LEGO fans. I loved to “renovate” my existing houses, adding staircases and furniture. Pouring through LEGO catalogs was my favorite thing to do, staring at each LEGO set with so much intensity that I learned to tell exactly which pieces each set came with by looking at its building techniques.

Building went from a side hobby to a serious obsession, in other words, a full-time hobby. I started entering into official LEGO contests, got some positive feedback, but I kept most of my building as a secret from my peers. I had talked to select friends about LEGO building, but they never seemed to share the same excitement about the latest set or building during the weekends.

In the LEGO community, older fans refer to their period of not-building as their “Dark Ages,” whether it was because they were in college, had a job, or just simply drifted away from toys during their teenage years. For me, the Dark Ages was the time period when I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone without being judged as someone who never grew out of their “toy phase.” Things changed when I got my first set in years; it was the 10218-1 Pet Shop.

Now retired, the 10218-1 Pet Shop was part of the LEGO Modular Building theme.

I know it sounds crazy, but the Pet Shop was really the thing that helped kickstart my personal hobby into something larger. The 2,032 piece beast was the biggest and most complex instructional-build at the time, and I paced myself throughout the process of building the Pet Shop just to savor the feeling of constructing it for the first time.

With the new addition of bricks in my collection, I felt gutsy enough to create a model for my history final out of LEGO bricks. This meant I would be presenting it to my class and opening up to my classmates, many of whom never knew that I built with LEGOs. My classmates liked my LEGO house, and crowded around to get a closer look at it after my presentation. At the time, the LEGO movie had just hit the theaters, so my teacher commented, “Everything is awesome in your model!” I was able to create an engaging visual element to my presentation and enjoy working on it at the same time.

This was the house I built for my 7th grade final project.

I realized that my two worlds, of LEGO and non-LEGO, could meet and co-exist on the same plane. The change started when I changed my perspective; when I could look at a pile of bricks as a medium that I could express my art through, LEGOs became more than just a child’s toy. LEGO bricks could be anything I wanted them to be, and that’s something to always remember.
In my next post, I’ll be sharing the lessons I learned through my LEGO journey. Stay tuned!