I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a complete A.F.O.L.
Not to be confused when pronounced with any other similar such sounding terms, the term A.F.O.L. refers to an Adult Fan of Lego, for those who’ve not met upon this turn of phrase before.
My relationship with LEGO has lasted since I was very young to be honest, as I’m sure it has for many and it will be a major part of my baby boy’s upbringing, as he grows, because it inspires and evolves.
As we speak (so to speak), Logan, currently 1 year old… is surrounded by his DUPLO, learning the foundations of how to pull daddies structural efforts to pieces and cast them about the living room… but, the essence of a future A.F.O.L. is being forged…
When I was first introduced to LEGO it was by my father. We didn’t have a lot of money so we didn’t have lots of the nice boxes as they are purchased today, we simply had a bunch of random bricks from his childhood and later some bits and pieces we got for birthdays and Christmas’s over the years of my youth, but this sparked a relationship with creativity and play that still remains today and will be a big part of my family’s future.
Now, as much as the subject of LEGO is a pleasant one, it’s worth noting, if you’re new to my blog, that my father was an extremely destructive and aggressive human being, the detail of which is covered in a book that I’m writing currently, as it’s more complex than a few flippant comments online.
None the less, he spent most of my young life destroying the environment around me, with a poster, or multiple posters, on every door to cover the holes he’d created, almost a metaphor for my life to date, it’s safe to say that there was little to be inspired by for the most part, but this is most likely why my relationship with LEGO is so poignant for me as an individual.
But why the brick became more to me as a young boy is a much more beautiful thing.
Marcus Tullius Cicero once wrote “Where there’s life, there’s hope” which is something that will always stick with me from my time in the theatre, but as a boy, it was more like “where there is LEGO there is hope” and I’ll give you the context now so it doesn’t sound so cheesy…
One morning, I woke up on a normal school day and found my way downstairs for breakfast, I don’t recall anyone else being awake at the time and I was foggy, as young kids are when they drag themselves out of bed; but I pottered into the living room looking for inspiration as to what to do and as I passed the threshold I found that inspiration, that changed something in my mind forever.
There, near the television by the living room window, on the floor, was an elaborate LEGO space station… as I mentioned, we had a lot of random bricks, but what my father had proven to me in that moment, was that your only limit with LEGO is your own imagination.
As I approached it felt like Christmas, like I’d been gifted the most evolved space set available. But as I drew closer, anticipating the interaction to ensue, I saw some potential in my father, as a father. A light beyond the dark tunnel that he’d become…
There were trapdoors and mini space ships, there were craters and cannons, this wasn’t some basic lair knocked up by just anybody, this was complex evolution of what was possible with the brick and although I knew that later on I’d have to let my sister have a go, in that moment it was mine and I was free, free of anxiety and free of fear, there was nothing else in that moment but the power of play and I lost myself in my own head and the world that my father had created for me. The world without boundaries.
My father was a martial arts instructor, so he’d not have been home before 10pm most likely, which meant that it must have taken him the majority of the night to create this piece of LEGO based art. For anyone who’s built an Imperial Battleship or a Death Star for a niece or nephew, or for one of their kids, you know where I’m coming from and there was no booklet for what I now had before me.
It was in this moment, at the age of maybe 7 or 8 that I truly fell in love with LEGO.
You see, what we don’t realise as we grow older and lose our ability to play, or our enthusiasm for the creative in our minds over time, is that it’s creativity and play that set you free, without prejudice.
The brick doesn’t care whether you’re rich or poor, it doesn’t care if you’ve got any friends or not, it doesn’t mind if you’re an only child or you have siblings, the brick doesn’t afford you parameters or restriction, it’s just there for you to explore what is within every one of us. With the brick you free yourself, you let the trappings of the world around you drift away and there’s no past or future with the brick, you’re simply present, there in the moment, to define what your world looks like today.
I never knew what I wanted to do growing up, I had an opportunity to push my swimming to an Olympic level potentially, but I left that behind, when my parents split up while I was 12 years old, then in secondary school I turned to acting, as it was easier that the suggested other options like ‘real life’ jobs in I.T. or Finance, which was about as dynamic as the career counsellor got.
Our career guidance during my schooling was pretty much nil. I was clearly never going to be a doctor or a lawyer, I wasn’t going in to I.T. or Finance, I didn’t know what the hell I wanted and there was definitely no one internally to support any kind of evolutionary thinking surround the subject of life choices… so I clung to acting and was eventually thrown out of drama school for missing classes, on the basis of anxiety induced migraines, which at the time I didn’t fully understand, as this was a number of years pre diagnosis.
I had no idea that the concept of working for a company like LEGO even existed… I didn’t understand business, still less that you could go and work for a company that made you feel happy and inspired. All I knew of the world of work was that it was dull and grey and it most definitely didn’t involve the cacophony of colour that you see within the history of the brick.
When I left drama school I was lost and I only run my own business now, because I never knew what to do… there was no option to head home, to assess what I wanted from my life, I had to just get a job and earn some money and that spiral was catalytic in the depression that’s followed me for the rest of my life.
A life that’s filled with what if’s…
I’m now probably too far gone and have run my own business for so long that I’m stuck in that wheel of life, fighting to ensure my son has options. Trying to find hope for my own future as well as his… but to a degree trapped.
But when you work with so many companies and you see their reality, their poor approach to their staff well-being, there’s often little to inspire the grafter within the machine.
I think LEGO could be something that changes that perspective for businesses.
Everyone wants their staff to feel positive and inspired, but very rarely are staff given time to breathe… so why not buy a bunch of LEGO and give them time to just be present, don’t envision the end gain, or the R.O.I., just envision their freedom to be.
Here’s an interesting insight on colour from The Centre of Urban Design & Mental Health
If you recognise that all colour attributes to our emotive, then you’re half way there… It’s then that ability to create that inspires us within, to believe in ourselves and to believe in the moment and the possibility that there’s something more for us.
So maybe I am too far gone, or too caught in the trappings of industry to get my dream job, teaching people about bricks, maybe there was no guidance when I needed it, or maybe I just didn’t feel inspired within, to look hard enough for a way out, maybe it’s the fear that I’m not worth it, or the fear of change, fear of giving up the devil I know (albeit less inspired) so that the image in my mind remains bright and inspiring, even if I never get to touch it…
I don’t know the answer to that, I don’t know what lies within my future, but I do know this… My son’s not there yet, he has every choice in life to come and as he grows and begins to consider what might lie within his future, there will be no boundary. He will know early on, that play is as important in finding your passions, he will know that there’s more to a job option, than I.T. or Finance, he will know that LEGO is a real company, with real people and real opportunity and that if he plays hard, he could be creating what inspires generations to come…
And it doesn’t matter what path he takes, whether he’s the next Prime Minister, or the next Billy Elliott, but as he wakes each morning and crosses the threshold into our living room, there will come a time when he knows whats inspired deep within ‘his’ father (near the television by the living room window, on the floor), and he will understand that life is only about the limits that we set for ourselves and that everything within you can be established, even if you only start with 1 simple brick…