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The worst time of my life Answered

If three years ago somebody had told me that I would be at Maker Faire, using my cyborg arms, watching Arc Attack playing the “Doctor Who” theme, and meeting Adam Savage from “Mythbusters”, I would have said that person is crazy or is mocking me. But I was there. With Instructables. It was awesome when Adam Savage, in the middle of his conference, yelled to me “Hey man! Nice borg!!”. “OH MY GOD!” I thought, “ADAM SAVAGE FROM THE MYTHBUSTERS TOLD ME I MADE A NICE BORG!!”

But, beyond Adam Savage, the giant robots, the fire and electricity shows, the beautiful steampunk women, the good energy, the delicious food and the pictures with Daleks; the most beautiful, shocking, awesome and magical moment of the Maker Faire 2013 was when I had just arrived at the Autodesk booth. I saw the giant map of DIYers from around the world, and I realized my picture and profile were representing Colombia and I was one of the three leading makers of South America. I was paralyzed remembering all this journey, from being a complete loser without a future to that point in time and space when I felt absolutely happy, calm, and at peace with myself. It was worth it to keep fighting, just for that sublime moment.

I felt like a Rock Star. Not because I was, but because Instructables and Autodesk made me feel like one.


When people ask me “Why do you love Instructables?” my answers are always the same: because the site is awesome, has amazing projects and great contests with cool prizes; because Instructables is the only one who has supported my DIY activities, especially in my country (Colombia) where science and technology aren’t priorities, and so on.

But I never gave the complete answer.

And now, after these fantastic five months as Artist in Residence, I want to tell the truth:

I love Instructables because they were with me in the worst time of my life.


In 2009, I lost my job as Security Analyst in an important Colombian company. I thought I could subsist thanks to my junk projects and creating my own business, but almost nobody was interested on buying recycled crafts (besides, I wasn’t as good then as I am today.) And the only interested people wanted my works for free.

It was not enough for a living, so after a few months I started looking for a job. Due to its economic situation, Colombia has high rates of unemployment and it’s very hard to find a job, and there’s no government subsidy for unemployed workers (sorry Colombia! One day, I will talk about all your beautiful and fantastic things, because you have a lot. But not today). Besides, when you are a former military officer the only civilian jobs you can apply for are in security because nobody thinks you can be creative; and if you are, nobody takes you seriously.

Every two weeks I had an interview. Every interview ended with just another “we will call you.”

It’s time to confess something to the world: at the same time, I was diagnosed with mild Borderline Personality Disorder and depression. It’s not something that “SHAZAM! You are nuts!”. No. I knew from years ago there was something wrong about me, but just in that moment I found out what I have. Just in case you ask: no, this condition doesn’t make me a bad employee, and I’m very competent in my work. No, I’m not some kind of evil psycho. Just a little bit creepy sometimes, but I always try my best to be a good person. And no, I’m not trying to look like a “dark and bizarre, Tim Burton style” character just because I want to look interesting. It may work for an artist or a teenager, but not for somebody trying to get a job in the security business or a stable relationship.

I didn’t have any health insurance; I didn’t have money for any treatment and, in case I could afford it, there is a social stigma about persons with some kind of mental disorder, and no company would be interested in hiring a security manager with that kind of problem. So, I had to keep it to myself. I didn’t even tell it to my family.

And my girlfriend broke up with me. So, my life was “complete.”

I was without a job, love and almost without my sanity. Almost all of my “friends” were gone. I was drowning in debts. I didn’t have money even for basic things. I had to return to my mother’s house. I lost every goal, every dream, and every hope. The situation was so desperate that I seriously thought about giving up.

But only two things stopped me from doing that. One was Carolina, the only friend I had in that moment.

The other thing was Instructables.


I found the site several months after because I was looking for simple robots ideas. Then, I saw Instructables has contests, and I entered my first project (the “SPD Exoskeleton”) for the 2009 Halloween Contest. A lot of people made awesome comments about my project, and I received my first prize: the “Photojojo!” book and a Robot T-Shirt. “What? I just post pictures of my project on an internet site and they give me free stuff? Interesting!”

Then, I made another project, the “Valentine’s RoboGrinch”. I was a finalist in the 2010 Valentine’s Day Contest. People around the world commented about my ideas, and my projects started to become popular being featured in other sites and blogs around the planet. When I got the First Prize on the Dead Computer Contest, I gave to my mother the netbook I won. It was the only present I could afford to give her in a long time.

In my darkest moments, when I thought about giving up, I remembered I had some project on Instructables I didn’t finish or publish, and then I keep fighting just one or two days more, because I didn’t want to leave it uncompleted. When I finished it, I endured one week more, just for knowing if it was successful in a contest. Sometimes I won. Sometimes I lost. When I could get some money, I used it for buying tools or materials for the projects, instead of food or paying debts. Because I started to think that every project, every idea I was making, every instructable I was writing, was my little legacy to humanity. Probably one day I will die, but at least in some part of the Internet, it would be a proof that I made something good, something that could be appreciated by anybody, and my life was not in vain.

And I started to win more contests. It felt good, because I thought “I’m a loser, but this loser is kicking butts!” With so many fantastic authors, the competition got tougher, so I had to improve my skills (and my English. Instructables was the only opportunity I had to improve and practice this language.) I became very good at making stuff with plastic trash and limited resources!

Besides, without knowing anything about me and my personal situation, even without being on the same country, the Instructables staff and community were (and are) very special and kind with me. They always made me feel respected and loved. Instructables was the only escape I had from my reality. This site has thousands of users and still they had the time to talk to me, to care for me, to make me feel like part of a bunch of friends! They were the only people that didn’t see me or treat me like a loser or somebody who needed to be pitied. They were the only ones that made me feel I wasn’t completely alone on this planet.

All of this situation lasted one year and two months. Instructables kept me fighting almost all of that time.


Finally, in September of 2010, I got a job. It wasn’t the best (honestly, it was horrible!), but at least I was working. Four months later, I got a better job as security manager of a business center, enough to start paying debts.

On October 2010, I went to the Colombian equivalent of Comic-Con, using the Cyborg suit I built for the Instructables’ Dead Computer Contest. Thanks to this, a beautiful woman found me out of the crowd, because she loves robots. She became my biggest fan and we shared a big love. I never thought I could find a love like that. She was the girlfriend I got thanks to Instructables! She was the inspiration of my “Cyborg Heart in a Can”. And I gave it to her.

And then Instructables interviewed me as Featured Author. I would be the first Colombian to be a Featured Author! That was awesome!
In total, I have won twelve Instructables contests and two challenges. Thanks to Instructables, people of all the world know about my cyborgs and my Roboplanters. (The funny thing is I’m still feeling like the black sheep of the family!)


It was 2012. After one and a half year of relationship, my girlfriend and I broke up, for good (our respective problems were stronger than our love.) Besides, I was stuck at work and I couldn’t study something art or robotics related because the restrictive schedule of my job. So, the depression was returning…

I was lying on the couch watching “Doctor Who” when a phrase get stuck in my mind: “All of time and space. Everywhere and anywhere. Every star that ever was. Where do you want to start?” And then I realized that nothing was tying me to Colombia and I could apply to the Instructables Artist in Residence Program. I wanted to know, at least for a few months, how it was to be in the most awesome company in this world.

So I quit my job, I sold most of my belongings, I packed my Dremel, my trench coat and my sonic screwdriver, I said goodbye to my family and I traveled to San Francisco on February 27th of 2013. I didn’t come for the “American Dream”. I came for the “Instructables Dream”!


What can I say? How can I describe the most fantastic experience of my life, using just a few words? How can I summarize five months of happiness, learnings, DIY and good energy, when every day was an amazing adventure?

I felt, after 35 years of life, I finally arrived in the place I belong.

I met the faces behind the site I love and admire. You know who they are (sorry for breaking the magic but, please! Update the Instructables Team page! A lot of awesome people are not there!) I’m trying to not mention specific persons, because I shared awesome experiences with each one of you. Every one of you taught me something, every one of you made me feel appreciated, every one of you does a fantastic job keeping this site working. And I want nobody feels excluded of this post (Sherry always fights for sending out prizes on time, silently. Why nobody says “Thanks Sherry?”) Because Instructables is more than servers and computers and projects and internet. Instructables is the people.

From the beginning, Instructables and the Autodesk Consumer Group made me feel like one of the team, like part of something bigger than myself. The Pizza Thursdays, the Marvelous Mondays, the Build Days, the Design Nights, became magical events for me.

But it wasn’t only Instructables and Autodesk. This beautiful city of San Francisco taught me real lessons about tolerance, respect and being yourself. It doesn’t matter if you are radically different to the other people. Just be a nice person, do your job and respect the others, and everyone will respect you.

I had never touched a CAD software, because I didn’t see any possible use for it in my life. And I thought it was something so complicated that only engineers and designers could use that kind of program. But then I went from 0 to 123D Design! I learned the basics in just two days and I fell in love with this awesome program, and it’s free! (But, seriously guys, try to fix that problem with the crashes. Everyone in the lab knew that when I screamed, it was because the program had a crash and I hadn’t saved the progress). And later, I learned how to use a 3D printer, a machine beyond my wildest dreams!

I remember the infinite sadness the first time I went to the amazing Pier 9 (new installations of Instructables and the Autodesk Consumer Group) and thought I could never try that fantastic technology; and the happiness when Noah told me I could stay two months more! You have all the best freaking hi-tech tools in this freaking world, and you don’t need to be a NASA scientist or a millionaire to use them! This place is waiting for people of all the world, to come with their ideas! (It doesn’t matter how crazy they are). 3D printers, laser cutters, a water jet, a bunch of expensive machines I still don’t know the names of, an awesome test kitchen, metal and wood shops, even a sewing area! And all available for the DIY community!

But, more than being on Pier 9 because the fantastic machines, I loved to stay here because Instructables.  My life has good things and bad things, successes and failures. But being part of Instructables and sharing moments with all of you has been the most memorable experience of my whole existence!


I want to say something to my dear friends of Instructables and Autodesk: if one day, for some inexplicable reason, you feel like your work is meaningless, you don’t like it’s Monday or simply you forgot what this is all about, just remember something: you will never know exactly how many lives Instructables has touched: how many persons found their true calling thanks to the projects, and how many persons found a hobby that makes their life happier. How many couples fell in love thanks to the delicious recipes and romantic crafts, and how many parents shared precious moments with their sons building something. But now you will always know, at least, Instructables and Autodesk saved one life. My life!


I wish to finish my post with some “Doctor Who” quote. I love “Doctor Who”, because is all about being awesome and optimistic and keep smiling even in the worst situations or despite you are feeling absolutely sad and alone. And the series has a lot of badass and beautiful quotes!

But now, when I have to start packing my bags, when I have to return to my hometown where I have to pretend I’m a “normal” person and try to get a “normal” job again, when I have to say goodbye to my coworkers (that are at the same time most of the only real friends I have had in my life), and to the greatest organization I have had the honor of being part (where for first time in life I felt truly appreciated, respected and loved, and happy because it was Monday and I could go to work in a company that is making of this world a better place); there’s one, and only one phrase that I got stuck on my head; the last words of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor when, standing alone after saying goodbye to his loved ones (and to the most awesome time of his life), his final moment comes:

“I don’t want to go.”

Mario Caicedo Langer
Former Artist in Residence.


I just keep reading this post and just keep feeling inspired and amazed. Every word, every time again.

Thanks for your words, Emily! It's funny, more than a year passed since the day I wrote this thing.

So... do you want to know what happened after that? :-)

Yes, I noticed it had already been so long since I first read it!

I would love to know what has happened since you wrote this : )

No way! Did I leave this in my pending list for one month? Sorry Emily!

Well, after I return to Colombia, I found a job in a company that make ballistic, anti-stab and anti-riots body armor for VIP, government, military and security forces. And there is a very strange tradition at work: we get shot wearing our products, to show how much we believe in our quality. You can check the video of when it was my time to do it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9vwBJJA5GE&list=UUmkffUXmZ8w2-dezWIsIVPA).

After 4 months, I had to quit, because I was invited by the Azerbaijan government to participate in a trash art exhibition in Baku. But for things that only happen in soap operas and romantic comedies, I fell in love with the person who contacted me. We started a far away relationship (Colombia is almost in the opposite side of Azerbaijan), and when we finally met, we realize we couldn't live without the other so, against all the odds, we run to Tbilisi (Georgia) and got married. Then we return to Baku to get married in the traditional way. Now we are living in Azerbaijan with two cats we adopted from the street. It's not easy (because we are from diferent cultures and marriage always has its up and downs, and besides, I'm not a pets lover), but she is the one. For me, she is the only one who deserve you leave everything behind and start a new adventure in an unknown country. And we are deeply in love!

Yep. Life goes on! :-)

Hey there- I am so happy I happened to come upon your letter. It spoke to me on many levels, and you should be very proud of yourself for doing what parts of you was afraid to do-(starting, unfortunately, with getting out of bed some days). It's all about giving back to others in so many ways but the first is to take care of yourself because you deserve it. It may sound trite but it is true...You have in turn touched more lives than you will ever even know, and in doing what you loved and becoming even more competent and confident, inspirational to others. I agree that Instructables has taken a role of leadership that is so important, others should take note. For whatever reason, it caught my attention- and inspired me to continue to persevere- in creativity and pursuit of my dreams for a sustainable makerspace, even in a town that seems barely interested. Bravo! And if you are interested in Tampa....

Thank you so much, Terrefirmax2! Good luck with your makerspace. Anybody has to make the difference! I will love to know more about your project!

Just read the above.... You are my hero! I need to write "instructables" with pictures for each step using basic words that my son mostly has used in his past 19 years of life (which isn't much of an understanding level). I NEED to restructure his life to depend on these "instructables" and put them on his ipad. He doesn't understand verbal instruction only - he cannot process it without visual pics. Using this approach (since he has been 4 years old)... I am burnt out b/c now that he has completely changed his likes and iinterests and now is an adult (from self care to eating/feeding to bathing to dressing to likes/dislikes)..... help? is their anyone that likes to do this for $$$????? I am BURNT... FROM caring for my other two boys including this one (who all have disabilities) - the other two are completely "naked" to the human eye - one wouldn't know now with the other two. I just went through a bilateral mastectomy and a radical hysterectomy (one month later) and I read your story which should inspire me to put these in place for my son.... this would keep him out of an institution.... one takes me "forever" to write .... any idea if you know of anyone that would do these (you would be perfect, but it looks as though you are busy beyond your own means).... for $$$ - help? one helluva tired mom~ Sue

Hi Sue,

Thanks for your comment. Sorry to read your story. Probably I can help you while I found a job. If you want, we can talk on private. Send me a message.

Have a nice day!


I just saw this today. I hardly ever read the community forums. And this story is amazing (especially the Doctor Who quotes, keep them coming!!). And I just want to say how inspiring your story is, to keep making and keep being positive, to keep creativity, even at the hardest times. It's very touching! You are a kick-butt winner!!

Sorry I did not see this until now! We all love you Mario! Thanks so much for sharing your excitement with us. I have learned that some things are worth the wait . . . I see your dreams coming true! I am excited for you! Have a splendorous adventure!

You must be very proud of yourself Mario!
I think many of us here can relate to your story, instructables has also saved my life. It's really heart breaking and shocking when a beloved one underestimates your creativity, discourages you rather than inspiring you, hardly saying something positive about the stuffs you make and calls it a stupid hobby! I had to call an end to my 3 year old relationship because of these reasons! those days were like nightmares! I was breaking down a little more each day. Thank goodness I found instructables within a month! It worked like a miracle, suddenly I became the happiest person on earth! and still am :) ,because of instructables! I was more than inspired when Linda showed me the Maker Faire 2013's giant map with my profile on it with other amazing authors of instructables! :) .... This might sound funny but you almost made me cry with the part where you wrote about Instructables and Autodesk saving many lives!
Keep up with your best works! The world is yours and you have it in you what it takes to fight so high! Wish you all the happiness and success!

Thank you so much, Muhaiminah!!

And I completely get your point. Most of my family (even my mother) think this is a stupid hobby and I'm wasting my life. So you can imagine the eternal arguments when I had to return to my mother's house (and now when I have to come back again and I don't have a workshop anymore).

Hey, I saw your work and is AWESOME! Don't give up of making amazing stuff!! I don't know your ex boyfriend and probably he's a good person, But, you never know, maybe one day you will find somebody who really appreciates the great job you are making!! Maker women are FANTASTIC!!

All the happiness and success for you too, Muhaiminah!

You're welcome Mario!
I love the way instructables appreciates and inspires all the works no matter how small they are, and I also hope to find someone who would appreciate that! ohh, and I would love to join instructables and I'll try to as soon as I complete my graduation :)


4 years ago


It was really cool to have met you (very briefly) while I was able to stop by the Instructables headquarters. Thank you for sharing your story.

I am so happy for you Mario!
I believe that you represent many of us here and are a great example of strength...sometimes we find the most important things in our lives when we least expect it, right when we are about to give up...isn't that amazing?
What you went through reminded me of my last few years...I know how hard it is but you were able to be strong enough to fight, so don't forget to thank yourself too and be proud! :) And I thank you as well, because you are giving me, and many other people, HOPE :)

Even if you are going back to your hometown, don't stop doing what you are doing!!

Linda you are so sweet and you are right on with what you said...it seems a lot of us share in this..and this site is really amazing...I wish all the creators on here lived in one city!!! I would love it..to finally be around people creative like me!! :)

Wow, that would be simply perfect!! I can't stop daydreaming now...I wish it was easier for all of us to be able to get together somewhere, even for short periods of time, like a creative vacation :D
Who knows, maybe we find the way to do something like that someday...in the meantime, I am so thankful that Instructables brought us together here! :)

Why don't both of you try to be in the AIR program at the same time? Each one for separately are amazing. Together, you could be a creative weapon of mass destruction!!!!! I would love to see that!! :-)

Wow, imagine them teamed up with Jessy and Nicole!

Oh my goodness, pleeeeeaaaaasssse. That would be a good time! :D


It would be soooo much fun!!!
I wonder if Eric is reading.....we are probably driving him crazy :D

Okey. The the Supreme Team are:
- Holly
- Linda
- Tarum
- Mario

So, when we will meet? :-)

I would love that! I've already applied for the AiR so we'll see...it will definitely be great if you will be back there too! :)

After all this talk, I just want to get on a plane and go to Instructables...NOW!! :D


Do it! Instructables is the best place on the world!! I'M MISSING JESSY'S FOOD!!!!

Yeah that would be awesome - maybe next year - :) and maybe you'll be back then too!

Oh yes, definitely! I want Tarun part of the Supreme Team too!!! Pier 9 will end up being full of lamps :D
Have you applied for the AiR too?

Thank Linda :) We will light up he the skies :)
I really want to be AIR but I have some personal obligations hindering my travel abroad. The moment they are over, I will apply for AIR for sure. Can't afford to be with awesome people. I have VISA and everything already :).

Thanks Linda! you are awesome! Maybe one day, we can meet! Italy is such a beautiful country... :-)


4 years ago

Mario, as a former AIR myself, I can say that I relate to you. Instructables IS the best place and that's why it's important to cherish these memories forever.

But don't think of saying "So long, Instructables" as the end of a period in your life. Instead, think of it as only the beginning. The reason I think the maker community is so wonderful is not only because they're the most creative people in the business. But it's because, even in tough situations, they can invent a solution. When I left Instructables for school, one of the things I did immediately was join Vancouver's Local Hackerspace- a group of like minded individuals founded on creating awesome homebrew projects. And even while I can't be an Instructables personally, they've all been incredibly supportive keeping in touch and providing tools for Build Nights.

You are a truly creative and inventive person and if your home is too "normal" for you, apply what you've learned and change it! Be the outlier in your community! Share what you love and continue inspiring others through your work.

I wish I had more time to chat with you in person- perhaps grab a tequila at the local Taqueria. Keep up the good work!

De tu amigo que está en Canada,


Hi Shift!

Thanks for your post. The problem is, things are very different if you compare Vancouver con Bogotá. The first time I tried to change the things, I ended on bankruptcy. So I don't know if things will be different now. There will be a storm when I return to Colombia...

But thanks, anyway It was fantastic to met you!



PS: I don't want to be rude (because I appreciate you so much) but... you know "Taqueria" and "tequila" aren't Colombian but Mexican things. Don't you?

No problem! I was actually referring to my favorite restaurant in San Francisco- La Taqeuria on Mission St. While I would love to visit Colombia, eventually, it probably won't be for a while. But when I do, I'm ordering Bandeja paisa and a drink of Lulada!

Sorry to hear about the bankruptcy. I always hate how money gets in the way of dreams.

Sounds good!!! But you invite the beers!!!

¡Por supuesto! ¡Vamos beber muchas cervezas!

Good luck Mario , Columbia really needs someone as awesome as you . Keep creating stuff . Always remember that the sane/normal standard is only a baseline . You keep making projects and I will keep checking them out .

Thanks Randomray! I will try to keep making stuff when I return to Colombia.

Dear Mario,
I read every word of your story and felt as if I am reading mine. Quitting a job for family, a divorce in progress, loosing grandfather, almost died due to dengue fever, dad would have died due to brain tumour. This all happened in the month of November 2012. I was lost, weak and lifeless. And then I found intructables one day. Since then it is like a life-saving multi-vitamin for me, must be taken every day. It is my stress buster, my hang out and has become a part of life.

I often wonder why reading books about stress-management, positive attitude do not help much. It is because only people like you have a capability to inspire someone so much that they couldn't help but follow you.

I never get a chance to interact with you much here because I came late but whenever I read your comments, you always seems like an awesome person to me.
I wish you all the success, love & happiness.
Wherever you go, whatever you do (instructables has to be there :))
May the best thing always happen with you
“When you want something, the universe conspires in helping you achieve it”.
A bro's hug and a hand shake