why do you do what you do?

It was a cold February day in the Navigli district. You can’t visit Milan and miss the tasty food, the spritz cocktails and the curious extrovert locals, right?

“So, you are a cancer research scientist. Why cancer research?”

We had just met at the bar and he was ready for deep discussion. This was such a standard question among scientists. (Good chance to show off!)

“Well, you know, I was young and I didn’t know”, I replied and winked. I was convinced I had impressed him with my witty answer.

“Tell me more about it”, he insisted.

He surprised me, however I engaged.

“Cancer is a challenging topic to work on. And I love challenges! Back in the days when I chose my specialisation, this was the “hot” trend, the most fascinating area. Let’s simply say I followed the trend and I found good funding! So, why not? During my studies, though, I realised that other areas, such as the Neurosciences, are also cool and equally interesting.”

He looked concerned.

“Would you choose differently if you could move back in time?” he asked me while taking a sip from his drink.

“Possibly. Afterall, what drives me is not finding the cure for cancer. (Between me and you, I don’t really care about the cure!) What drives me is the satisfaction of understanding the biology and the secrets of life at the molecular level. It is like a mystery game, you know? And I love games!” and I winked again.

I had memorised our conversation word by word. It was echoing in my head like a joke now.

I stared at the street outside my window to hide the wetness of my eyes. A pedestrian was crossing, disturbing the absolute stillness of the colourful landscape.

“Cancer”“trend”“cure”… the overwhelming beauty of the city, the dizziness from the Italian sun and the cocktails, the bittersweet taste of this world, cruel and seducing at the same time:

moved by a blast of emotions, I think I heard that this deadly disease took his parents away, but I am not sure.

The longest red lights of my life.

We were in the tram going back home and as soon as the lights turned green, a new myself was born: less superficial, less ridiculous.

*Mynd taken in Milan, Italy, February 2018*

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