How to keep hope alive when your dreams are falling apart April 22, 2014 14:00

 Natasha Hope Simpson prosthetic leg Lumecluster

“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.” ― Helen Keller

I’d like you to think back…to that first time (or the many times) when you (re)discovered what you’re meant to do with your life or to that moment when you thought you finally “figured it out.”

It felt amazing, didn’t it? Your mind was racing with thoughts and ideas. That huge rush of anticipation and purpose flooded your entire being because your life felt like it was finally heading in some clearer direction. In those moments, your life felt perfect.

But in one fell swoop, that hopeful optimism can be fractured. Maybe by a bad business decision, perfection paralysis, failing to turn an idea into reality, realizing something isn’t your passion after all, or struggling to make ends meet…

Overwhelmed with anger, fear, or frustration, you might attempt to convince yourself that the once crystal clear path has become a sloppy mess of “wasted” energy and “silly” aspirations. Your mind cycles through variations of, “Why is this happening to me?” or “Why can’t this be easier?” But I bet your favorite one of all is…

“Will I ever really make it?”

Sure, life will throw you curveballs and the downers will always make you question your choices by pressuring you to “face the facts” and “be realistic.” But in the end, it all comes down to one thing:


You can either choose the empowering perspective or the disempowering one. Because no matter what you experience or what other people say about you (or what you do), YOU have the final word on what you choose to tell yourself and how you perceive your experiences.

Sound hard? It doesn’t have to be. To prove it to you, I’d like to share a story.

Natasha Hope-Simpson & 3D printed prosthetics: a story about turning tragedy into creative hope…

As you may know, I began my journey in 3D printing back in October 2013. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with people who constantly push the limits of their expectations and imagination.

In March 2014, one of those amazing people I met was Kendall Joudrie, founder of Truro-based Thinking Robot Studios. From Kendall, I learned about Natasha Hope-Simpson, a 24-year-old artist/musician who lost her leg in a hit-and-run car collision in her hometown of Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

Despite going through eight surgeries, Natasha’s leg was too mangled and she was told that she would never be able to walk properly again. So, she made the tough decision to amputate her leg.

Natasha Hope Simpson
Photo by Eliot Wright

While Natasha was a victim, she did not remain a victim of her circumstance.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” ― Haruki Murakami

Although the driver(s) that crushed her leg has still not been found, Natasha told CBC News, “There’s a big part of me that’s forgiven them…holding on to angry feelings prevents you from moving on and I need to move on.”

She chose to discover new possibilities instead of despairing. She chose to see her loss as an opportunity for artistic potential in prosthetics instead of thinking her future is lost. And although her old way of life had been ripped away from her, she chose to believe that she could build a new way of life.

One of her early efforts was when she spoke to a class at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University’s Institute for Applied Creativity (NSCAD), the university she had graduated from. She spoke to the class about wanting to design a better prosthetic limb that was both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

That day, NSCAD director, Gregor Ash, happened to hear her speak. Inspired by her speech, Gregor connected Natasha with Kendall Joudrie and Jourdan Dakov of Thinking Robot Studios, who offered to help her engineer a prototype prosthetic in time for NSCAD Halifax’s first-ever Maker Symposium. And so began Natasha’s beautiful journey down a new road…

Natasha Hope Simpson leg scanLaser scan and white light scan of Natasha's leg

Hopes and dreams begin when you choose to plant the seed of possibility.

In order for that seed to grow, it must be tended to with patience, perseverance, and ambition. And when that seed first sprouts, people notice and may even aid in its growth. For Natasha, people definitely noticed her sprouts.

While it began with NSCAD and Thinking Robot Studios, Mike Fanning of NovaCad (3D Systems reseller) offered to print the prototype using the 3D Systems Boston service. Ian Weir, Department of National Defense, along with Paul Ragot performed a laser scan of her good leg to capture her symmetry. Bob Garrish of Spring Loaded Technology performed a white light scan to aid in design. Finally, Kendall Joudrie and Jourdan Dakov of Thinking Robot Studios consulted with Natasha and engineered a stable prototype. The only thing that was left was aesthetics and there was very little time left before the Halifax Maker Symposium.

Natasha Hope Simpson prosthetic leg
Photo on the right by Eliot Wright

Natasha had lots of ideas, but no time. However, she noticed my Dreamer/Nightmare masks and instantly fell in love with them. And so, Kendall Joudrie contacted me immediately. Needless to say, I was deeply moved by her story and was happy to donate my design to the project. I will continue collaborating with Thinking Robot over the next year as they develop a final prosthetic for Natasha.

Designing and engineering prototypes normally takes many months. But for Natasha’s prosthetic from concept to product? 15 days.

It’s amazing what a single person or a group of people can do when they make something their mission. You know what they say: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

As cliché as this is, it’s true. Yes, your path will always be littered with obstacles, uncertainties, and failures. But it doesn’t mean they have to be feared or disliked every time they enter the picture.

What can make all the difference is how you consciously decide to respond and react to your experiences. Because when you learn to love the challenge, nothing can stop you from moving forward.

Here are some key thoughts and perspectives to keep up the hope:

  • If you’re always watching the ground to avoid stumbling, you might just miss something beautiful.
  • Your future success depends on what you can do today, not yesterday or tomorrow.
  • What you’re afraid of is only a construct of your imagined reality, not your real life.
  • Dreams thrive when they have the freedom to roam.
  • The future is built by those who can draw from their wildest dreams.
  • Occasionally, you can discover a better path when you take a wrong turn.
  • Mistakes and failures are often building blocks in disguise.
  • The greater the challenge, the greater the victory.
  • Sometimes dreams need to fall apart in order to take on new forms.

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” ― Maya Angelou

Some of life’s most troubling moments often produce the most meaningful experiences, don’t you think? In the end, hardships don’t exist to tear down your hopes and dreams. They serve to make you wiser, stronger, and smarter if you can see the lessons in them.

The only thing that could truly destroy your dreams is if you wait and refuse to make a choice. To take a chance.

So, don’t wait for hope. Make your hope.

And show the world what your dreams are made of.

<3 Melissa
P.S. If you want to follow what I’m designing next, join me on my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. What to expect next: finely detailed 3D printed jewelry

Also check out the video here:

Photo by Eliot Wright
Photo by Eliot Wright