Since I was a child I have cultivated a few great passions in life, passions that overtime grew into professional objectives or intense hobbies. Some of these passions became a reality at adulthood, and some other ones simply didn't happen. No one is to blame, life is never linear and we, ourselves, are emotional roller-coasters who respond to time and experiences in different manners throughout our path. At some point when I was about eight years old I knew I wanted to be a medical doctor, a passion I had for taking care of people and shape their health to improved levels. By the age of 16 I really felt deeply connected with endocrinology and felt that I would be a great fit in said medical area. None of this became a reality because ... I simply don't know why, but I have my suspicions. Overall, it wasn't to happen. But the passion is still there; the motivation? Not so much!
I also, as a child, wished I was a writer published globally, not for the sake of money, I can assure you that regardless of how you might consider my ego, but for the sake of having so much to say about life, and at that time, so few people interested in what I thought. I wrote my first book, a novel about depression and misfortune at the age of 16 - "Gray Mosquitoes - Tragic fable of a suicidal" - was the name of that creation. The book did well in a national literature competition in Portugal and prompted me to keep writing. Writing for me was natural, writing for me was energetic, writing for me was deeply and utterly necessary to cleanse and integrate, accommodating all those feelings and observations into a structured analytical perspective. After that first novel several other followed, "Nayf" told the story of a fatherless adolescent with no emotional structure at all and who pushed back any external attempt of others to help him; and "As long as the world lasts" compiled numerous lyrics written for my personal music projects, like the band I had started back in 1995 named "Salem's Voice".
Music is still one of my passions as it was in the past and as it as always been. I play bass and guitar but I am not a pro, I just like the way it makes me feel, it transports me to realities where the weight of the days simply isn't there anymore and for a few minutes I can evade from a deeply disturbed planet to a conceptualisation of whatever I want, based on what I am playing or listening to. Music does indeed heal, people know it, it is an accessible emotional 'psychotropic' with very few side effects. For me, from the moment I started playing some rubbish chords until the time I became the lead singer of my own band, music made perfect sense, but I always saw it as a positive therapeutic distraction from a convulsive meaningless world, and still today I hold the very same perspective on music-and-me.
My deep self wanted a better world for all, especially for those who experienced in life the same trajectory that I have had. I was born in an African country deeply devastated by civil war, moved to Europe, my family took a lot of time to base themselves in a region which made me experience 9 schools/nurseries (very much geographically distant) before joining university; and making friends became a hardship. And when you don't have the skills to make friends that easy, simply because you don't have the stability and they don't have the capacity to understand it and be an active part of your journey (empathy is a rarity in growing adolescents - believe me), you become isolated, misunderstood, atypical and mildly unwanted around the hordes of teenagers who are themselves trying to make sense of the world they were given to. This is when reading, one of my passions and that I recall having emerged in my life from the moment I started primary school, became ever so important. I have always been completely mad about compulsive reading, trying to intake all knowledge possible about so many different things. And this is one of the aspects that really characterises me, the capacity to show interest and discuss so many different topics - it has helped me connect with people I have very little in common with, and it has helped me adapt to the different urban tribes a lot better.
I always read and read and read as much as possible. As a child I consumed the books of a library near my house, furiously, but at home the books I could find never triggered any interest as the topics were pretty much related to my parents' professional occupations, and those were never a passion of mine. I have always been a kid who was never compelled to follow his parents' professional routes; never liked it, never appealed to me. In that limitation (struggling to find something good to read) I turned to the community library, it was free, the range of books was much larger, but the topics were institutionalised and that was vastly boring. I have always been a person with enormous inner discomfort in relation to social injustice and inequity. I share it not to obtain any type of societal approval but to open up space for the external understanding that said attitude really shaped my years to come and the way I still operate to date. The need for information on more obscure realities, knowing the technicalities of the different things that were taking place around us and the different visions we could lay upon these systems drove me to many interesting books, films and documentaries (yes, cinema was also a passion of mine).
Two books and three music albums marked strongly my adolescence, some even flagged that embryonic cut from when you become a real adolescent and integrally abandon childhood. This is exactly marked by the moment two very specific events occur in your life almost simultaneously, 1) you start loving someone (or at least at that stage it hurts as if it's love) and 2) you start worrying about the state of the planet and society you have around you. "Zoo Station: The Story of Christiane F." represents a moment in my life as a human being, as a person, where I understood for the first time that some battles had to be fought completely alone, by oneself... and character, resilience and integrity would be pivotal for one's victory. It also alerted me to the dark powers associated to drug consumption. I think parents around the world would help their children so much if this book, or any other pedagogic book of this crude nature became an adolescence gift to raise awareness on the reality of drugs, so much broadcasted these days as cool, entertaining and natural in opposition to their true nature of devastating, criminal and self-limiting substances. The other book was "The Perfume - The story of a Murderer" by Patrick Suskind, a book that actually became the topic for the song 'Scentless Apprentice' by my favourite band ever - Nirvana -, who created my favourite album ever "In Utero". These three icons are deeply embedded in my becoming a Person, the person I am today. The book offered me yet again that misanthropic living that will be life for so many of us throughout our existences, even though the fictional atmosphere is dark, criminal and psychotic, but if we read between the lines there is a person who was born under terrible conditions, never felt loved and spent his life seeking the notion of Love (and self-love) almost desperately with therapeutic objectives, if one can say it. The album offered that same vision but through the eyes of Kurt Cobain, someone I could understand and empathise with so much - my favourite artist ever.
The last two albums that brought up the first adult version of my own self were very different in nature. "The Cult - Pure Cult: for Rockers, Ravers, Lovers, and Sinners" showed me I was starting to feel different whilst reading the world around me, and that that was a genuine interest in girls (one specifically I should say, but that was never corresponded at any time, hence generating that emotional conflict where friendship becomes passion becomes attraction becomes sour!!!!). This album was an awaking moment in my personality for sure. And finally "Chaos AD" by Sepultura who basically x-rayed a world filled with disgust, social injustice and political/societal hypocrisy.
Finally, some people can say Football is also a passion of mine and I have always been naturally good at Sports, but impatient to tolerate what Sports have become as money-making industries.
My passions were sown inside me in a way that made me a different kid amongst people who were acting really hard to come about Different (as in Cool). But no passion was in me as strong as my love for Science, especially Life Sciences. I am completely addicted to knowledge generated by consuming Science at all times, and that drove me to study so 'hard' in life, and when you do it out of love it's not hard anymore, it's a natural process, a dignifying one, a needed one, a must. I completed my university studies, my BSc, MRes, PhD, worked in research but that passion of mine (Research) was not fulfilled to the most because as a professional route it is deeply rotten and lacking principles and morals. I would not be able to stand for most of the technicalities that define one to be a 'modern slave' of a predefined scripted vicious thinking process, one that nowadays is ever more commercial than actually scientific.
So the way to combine my passion for science with my passion for knowledge and communicating said knowledge was to create a blog. This blog. The blog that shut doors today but that was ever so integral and important in allowing me to suck the juice of having someone interested in what I had to share. The scientific knowledge I was collecting for myself and decided to share with an audience for my questions would definitely be the questions of others. And I did if for quite some time with enormous pleasure and integrity, scientifically and personally, by approaching everything with the due referencing and never assuming absolutism. Everything can be questioned but all questions need a proper thought process. I pretty much enjoyed every single article I wrote hereby and I learned so much with this blog. The Toxicologist Today was, at some point, a flagship of scientific honor for me. The knowledge and debate generated helped solidify that idea that science needs conversational positioning, to attempt to prove or disprove theories.
But times evolve and where I still believe I have so much to give to an audience in terms of scientific communication, something that unfortunately I do not see entirely fulfilled with my professional career due to the limitations associated to the ins and outs of the nature of what I do, ..., I am sure I have so much to speak about, discuss, teach, learn from and debate on. But the platforms are changing, audiovisual channels became a reality of our days and I could see myself deriving to those platforms, but I don't want to. I really could do it naturally, but one thing is missing; that x-factor that really differentiates those who like from those who love, and those who love from those to act upon - The Passion. I don't have it anymore. It is time to seek pleasure in other things as I see myself reading more and learning more but purely for myself. Eventually sharing but not compulsively or needing to, but as a natural occurrence, if it has to be and without any kind of pressure, internal or external.
This is the end of The Toxicologist Today and I thank you deeply for nearly 11 years of my favourite blog on the Web.
Thanks to @Nate_Dumlao for making this photo available freely on @unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/k2GX9kNhXyQ?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink