Disassemble, Dismantle

Box of Lego Pieces

Whether you want to call it dismantle or disassemble, I’ve spent the past two nights taking apart my Lego sets. As I did so, I thought about the past fifteen or so years of my life.

From 2012 to present, my Legos had been sitting on a bookshelf in my room, at my mom’s house. Prior to that, they spent a short time at our apartment before we moved here. From 2008, when I bought my first Lego sets as an adult (and as part of my shopping spree), most of them served as decoration and diversion at work. A Star Wars set that I received around 2000-2001 sat, assembled, in a plastic box under my bed. Lastly, there were some loose pieces from childhood that we had either brought with us when we first moved to the U.S., or had recovered from Granny’s house many years after.

All My Legos

At our old apartment – with the exception of Star Wars, all the Lego sets I acquired from 2008 on

When we moved to my mom’s house in 2012, I had thought about taking them apart, but was reluctant to do so. They had been a part of my life up until that point, and perhaps I was hoping to still be able to hold on to parts of the previous chapters. As I disassembled each set brick by brick, the chapters surfaced. The aforementioned shopping spree, then building the sets at work after hours. JC building the town hall on New Year’s Eve 2011. My cousin NLG and her family visiting my work, her kids playing with my Legos. Going to Hong Kong in both 2000 and 2001, and then the three years after when I stopped working. Even memories from childhood, from recognizing Lego pieces whose designs have remained unchanged in the nearly four decades that I’ve been alive.

Building the Town Hall

December 31, 2011 – JC building the town hall

Now, it is 2015 and we have once again moved to my mom’s house. What’s different this time versus three years ago that’s caused me to become OK with taking apart my Legos that have remained assembled for so many years? It could be that I’ve finally realized (or accepted) that the sets can be rebuilt. Maybe I had a hangup where I thought that the first build with new bricks is the cleanest (well, it is) and the tightest, and that it just wouldn’t be the same after taking it apart and rebuilding. Maybe after sitting on the shelf for two years without anyone touching them they’d gathered so much dust that they were no longer clean, so the hangup no longer applied.

I remember as a child, during one of my first sessions playing with Lego, my mother telling me that “Lego” stands for “Let’s go”, such that if a build doesn’t work out the first time you can take it apart and “Let’s go again!”. I don’t know if that’s what Lego really stands for, but it was something I thought about before starting. I’d forgotten one of the most basic things about Lego, which is that you can always start over. I made sure that I still had all the build plans so that I could “Let’s go again” if I ever wanted to in the future.

It could also be that I’m feeling weighed down. Fully assembled, my sets take up two shelves. As you can see above, they now take up a single filing box. As we near six months of living at our parents’ places, with no sign of anything changing in the near future, I feel like I want to slim down so that when the chance does arise, we can move swiftly.

Maybe I don’t want to have so much stuff, or to be responsible for so much stuff. I look at all the books I’ve never really read, all the games I’ve never really played, all the movies that I’ve never really watched, and I feel tired. As we get further into life, we acquire more and more things, telling ourselves that we will get to them, yet we never do. The basic model stays the same, nothing changes, yet we’re still standing in the store holding the product in hand, telling ourselves that somehow it will be different this time. I remember that near the end of my most recent job, six months ago, it was the same as it was near the end of the job before that: dead tired at the end of the day, having to choose between rest or recreation, sacrificing one for the other. Will things really be different this time?

As I said, I’ve been alive for nearly four decades. I’ve almost reached midlife, and I’m starting to feel the effects of reaching this stage. I imagine this is what everyone in their late 30s goes through, realizing that this is all there is, all the dreams from earlier years giving way to reality. We dream about having a place of our own where we can store all those Legos, all those games, have a fish room, have a garage with a lift so we can work on our Acura TSXs. But in order to achieve and then to sustain that, you’d have to spend the majority of your time working (unless you somehow got rich quickly). Would you have time to do all those things you want to do? I’ve already tried it, and the answer is no. Am I really so interested in those things anymore? Judging from my actions (or rather, inaction), the answer is also no. Maybe it’s time to dismantle and disassemble the dream.

Prying off each piece, I felt some sadness at taking apart things that had been intact for non-trivial amounts of time. The youngest set was four years old, others were at least seven years old, and the Star Wars set at least fourteen years old. At the same time, I felt some relief from being able to reclaim my shelf space, and from knowing that I could always rebuild the sets if I wanted to. I have the original plans, some of the sets have alternate plans, and there is always the option to not use any plans at all. It’s also therapeutic when one is able to overcome a fear and move forward.

And so it goes with the dream. It’s OK to take it apart, the pieces are still there, ready for me to arrange or re-arrange them into a new one.

In the end, I decided to keep the water truck intact. Something to play with on my desk, and maybe just a little something from the past to hang on to. As always, hope you’ve enjoyed this extra-commentary museum post. 🙂

Minifigures Old and New

Minifigures Old and New

Newer and older minifigures

When I was cleaning up to move back in 2012, I set up a bookshelf for my priceless Legos. Sadly, when we first moved to the United States my childhood collection was mostly decimated, with only a few bricks and minifigures kept in storage with relatives. Above is a minifigure from the 50th anniversary Town Plan set (2008) and a couple of minifigures from my childhood collection.