Welcome to The Learning Curve! A publication inspired by using my own privilege and allowing others with less of a voice to communicate their stories through me. Each month, readers vote on a theme that they want to be covered and would enjoy learning more about. Then, I set out to find people who are willing to share their personal stories with me and the rest of the Learning Curve community. This months' topic is mental health and mental illness.
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He described his life as content. Working for a successful small business as a software developer and in a fruitful relationship. When he lost both of them—the job and his partner—he found himself in a bout of depression.
“I could find no reason to live and the world felt very bland to me at that time,” he said.
Seye Kuyinu, 37, was born in Nigeria where he pursued his bachelor’s degree in medicine. While he graduated with his medical degree, he has never practiced. During his first year in med school, he stumbled upon a book of programming and began freelance work, helping build websites for people.
“It clicked in my head and was something different than my coursework,” he said. “In coursework I was learning about abstract things and while I was writing code, I could see what was coming out of it.”
Kuyinu’s skills are what landed him his job as a software developer. When his depressive episode hit, however, he was forced to look at his life and his reality, he said.
“Somehow I found ways to personally get myself out of it,” he said. “I started to question what I thought was reality and my whole outlook on life changed.”
Kuyinu began practicing meditation and it opened his eyes to a new way of viewing the world, he said, noting that we as humans often only see the obstacles in life rather than the small steps we can take to overcome them.
To break this practice, he challenged himself to step outside of his comfort zone by doing things such as eating vegan for a month, learning a foreign language, experimenting in the arts with watercolor painting and learning violin, guitar and piano.
There was also a month where he challenged himself to talk to a new person each day to improve how he interacted with people; something he was not accustomed to due to his job spent behind a computer screen, he said.
During this phase of the experiment, Kuyinu began even more difficult challenges for himself—writing books and getting them published, moving to the United States for work, pursuing a master’s degree at Harrisburg University and, eventually, completely changing his career path.
“It sounds very cliché, but life really is what we make of it,” he said. “A lot of times we sit down to try and figure out what life is, but it is not there for us to study.”
Before moving to the U.S., Kuyinu left the largest media agency in Europe where he was working as a chief technology officer. When he successfully moved to America and got his master’s in information systems, it confirmed his theory that he could be anyone he wanted to be, he said.
“I realized that being scared is a normal part of life, but what I needed to do was find a way to reach a sense of clarity,” he said. “Sometimes it is as simple as taking a walk, or changing your location from the couch to outside.”
Once you change something, you are able to get clarity in a certain section of your life by breaking things down into smaller pieces, he said. This is his way of slowly working through steps to overcome an obstacle.
For example, he said, we are not born with the knowledge of how to drive a car, and the first step in learning is to find someone who does know how to drive, has a car and has time to teach you.
“So then maybe the first time all you do is sit in the car and become familiar with the pedals and buttons,” he said. “Those small steps lead to bigger increases in knowledge and before you know it, you do not even remember your whole drive home because it is now second nature.”
Kuyinu believes the mind tricks us into forgetting about these small steps to accomplish a goal, he said, stating that a lot of what we think is reality is mostly an illusion created by false obstacles in our heads.
To keep his life as fruitful as possible, Kuyinu continues to challenge himself to do and learn new things, he said. He now works as an agile coach and spends his days interacting with people, building relationships and coaching organizations into delivering value more quickly by using each person’s strengths to their advantage, he said.
“I would have never thought this is what my career would be,” he said. “But each day I get to wake up and help ignite people just as much as I have ignited myself.”
This new career path allows him to work from home and maintain his own individual schedule as well, he said. In the evenings he puts his career aside and focuses on his creative work.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he decided to start his own music project and ended up producing eight piano pieces composed for an orchestra. By the end of the year, he hopes to have an album available to the public, he said.
Another creative project he is still working on is an art exhibition he calls “Colors for the Sighted.” The idea came to him during quarantine when it occurred to him that everyone was masking up and washing their hands consistently, but nobody was talking about people who have to use their hands to identify things, he said.
The exhibit is planned for early 2022 and will include 15 paintings with braille embedded in the pictures, allowing the blind to “see” something more than one would by simply just looking at the painting.
“I was never and artist or a musician or an author,” he said. “But now I am. All it takes is taking a step back and realizing we are part of a play.”
Life, he said, is that play. And, according to Kuyinu, everyone has the power to change the script.
As he continues his career as an agile coach, he also remains open to new interests and skills; continuously challenging himself to expand and enhance his life.