You don't have to be trapped in the cycle of late nights, energy drinks, and existential dread that characterize higher learning to appreciate the "Lego Grad Student" Instagram, but it certainly doesn't hurt. Although college is a time to explore your interests and make a series of questionable decisions, graduate school is decidedly different — and not always in a good way.
One current grad student-cum-hero has taken the overworked, under-caffeinated lifestyle of the "laborers of academia" and created something any student can relate to: the "Lego Grad Student" Instagram. The account is fairly self-explanatory; it follows the adventures of a tiny, plastic grad student as he navigates the upper echelons of higher learning, from soul-sucking meetings with committee members to the perils of battling other students for free food. To give you an idea of the account's tone, in one memorable post, the figurine can be found crying over a toilet after meeting with a professor.
Incidentally, this was the post that started it all. "Back in the summer of 2013, I got stuck with my work and wanted a distraction. ... I thought of all sorts of things I might try doing, but my mind kept thinking about Legos," the creator of "Lego Grad Student" tells Bustle over email. (He wishes to remain anonymous, so we'll call him Lego Grad Student.) He bought a set of the toys, which proved to be surprisingly therapeutic. When he struggled with work again this year, he returned to his Lego building.
"The first thing I built was a little bathroom, just because I thought it was funny. ... I guess I was feeling the weight of grad school, because the first idea that came to mind was that the figure was a grad student that just had a terrible meeting with his advisor," he writes.
From there, inspiration continued to strike. "I was having too much fun to stop, so I decided to keep going," writes Lego Grad Student. Since then, his plastic character has attended conferences, slogged through writer's block, and, of course, wondered what the heck he's doing with his life.
Lego Grad Student draws inspiration from his own life, but he works to make the posts relatable. "I'd say a lot of the posts have degrees of exaggeration, but they are all very firmly based on real experiences and emotions," he writes. "Some of the exaggerations are more obvious — I haven't cried over a toilet, and I haven't destroyed a printer in a burst of flames. But some form of most of the images has happened to me or someone I know."
The account has proven popular online, with several thousand Twitter followers — a turn of events that Lego Grad Student says came as a complete surprise. "I NEVER expected for any of these pictures to strike a chord with people. I made these for my own amusement, and I put them on social media for friends to see," he writes, adding that "if they can help any grad student — or really, any person — feel like they're not alone, and maybe even help them smile a bit, then I'm thrilled."
If you're an upcoming graduate student who's been reading all this with a rising sense of panic, fear not! Lego Grad Student has some advice. "It takes a while to readjust your own expectations, to realize that your own physical and mental health need to be prioritized, and to understand that being a good student is not the same as being a good scholar," he writes. At the very least, take comfort in the fact that you, too, will eventually develop a bleak sense of humor. Lego Grad Student notes, "A lot of things I've portrayed would not have been as funny to me during my first year of grad school."
Images courtesy of Lego Grad Student/Instagram (3), startupstockphotos.com/Pexels