Sometimes Say Never

I’m a believer in setting goals, aiming high, and working hard to do the things you want to do in life. I have a Life List, and I’m gradually ticking things off it. You never know what you can achieve until you try, even if it seems odd or crazy or too ambitious for you right now. But…

Part of figuring out who you are and what you want to do, achieve, and experience in your life also means figuring out what you don’t want. And I’m not talking about things that are mostly beyond your control – illness, grief, and heartbreak aren’t really up to us – but the choices you make and how you choose to spend your time.

I’ll never run a four minute mile…
Never play for Barcelona
Or sail around the world alone
I’ll never be the man on the wire
– Bell X1, “Four Minute Mile“

In the same way as our brains must prune neurons to function properly, we can’t do everything all our lives. Time is finite, and we have choices to make. And learning to happily and confidently say, “Nope, not for me, thanks” is one of the ways – along with learning to drive, moving out of home, and no longer finding my first proper boyfriend attractive – is how I knew I was really an adult.

So here are the top three things I’ll never do:

Bungee Jump: Throw me out of a plane with a parachute anytime – skydiving is awesome. But I don’t like throwing myself off things head first quite so close to the ground (I have the dental damage to prove it), and I’m pretty sure I’ll always find a better way to spend my money and time than bungee jumping. If it’s on your life list, though, I’ll be there with a camera, a change of clothes, and a well-deserved drink/hug for you afterwards.

Be an academic: This is a site for bookish ladies, so I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I was a nerdy child who loved learning. I loved college, and did very well in my degree. I did a master’s because I got a scholarship and I figured it was my first step to the PhD and life of academia everyone had earmarked me for since I could understand the words “What do you want to do when you grow up?” And though I loved the subjects, and did well in the exams and thesis (as if the inner Lisa Simpson would allow anything else), I discovered the thought of doing an actual PhD made me break out in hives. I was stuck to my laptop all day as it was; it could take years to run experiments, get published, and get feedback; and I’d spend half my time scraping around for scholarships to live on, and another quarter working out how to live entirely off dehydrated noodles. I now have a job that is interesting, fun, pays me pretty well, and I have my evenings and weekends to do all the other stuff I want to do.

Do ballet: When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time drawing endless ballet dancers, trying to perfect the angle of the feet and ankles just right. I practiced the five positions regularly, even though I never went to a ballet lesson in my life. Cut to this year, when I injured myself in such a way that I can never wear heels again without loading up on ibuprofen beforehand and preparing crutches for afterwards. And though I joked at the time that my career as a ballerina was ruined, I was genuinely sad that I’d never have that late blossoming in adult dance classes that I’d fantasised about – and I’d never have any use for my very own pair of pointe shoes. But I’d rather be pain-free than en pointe, and there are other ways to dance. And I may just buy a pair anyway, for wearing around the house…


So those are at least three things I won’t regret on my deathbed. What about you – do you have any “nevers”?

6 replies on “Sometimes Say Never”

Thanks for this post. I agree wholeheartedly with the idea that being an adult means pursuing big goals because they appeal to us.

Some goals change because, as you say, once we figure out what it actually is, the appeal is gone.  Other times we just change our minds. I regularly find people pursuing goals out of spite, to prove someone wrong. They don’t realize that investing time in things to prove another person wrong still concedes agency to that person.

Here’s some things I do not ever want to do, but once thought I did (either I didn’t know what it really meant, or others had me convinced they were markers of achievement). My list of nevers — updated from life experience: 1. Go back to an R1   2. Be a tv talking head  3. Run for office  4. Run another marathon.

Knowing what I want means updating what I don’t want too. Thanks for reminding us.


Such a thoughtful comment. Thank you.

The marathon one is something I thought about putting up there – I don’t like running and I’m not good at it, and with my injury, the chances are pretty slim – but it’s so widely regarded as the pinnacle of athleticism for non-professionals that I’m not sure what to actually aim for as a crazy-but-achievable fitness goal.

Bungee jumping, skydiving, or free climbing.  I group these together because the reason they’re on my “nevers” list is that I have a severe phobia of heights (seriously…I’ve had to be talked down off the fourth rung of a ladder because I had a panic attack and couldn’t move.)  And while I like to challenge this fear, I do it within reason.  I climb on climbing walls with lots of safety equipment, and go on roller coasters (but not the SUPER high ones of the free fall ones) or I hike up mountains, but ones with a little bit of wiggle room between me and an edge.  Stuff that challenges my fear but in an enjoyable way, and that (usually) doesn’t lead to panic.  But bungee jumping, skydiving, and free climbing just have no appeal that outweighs the utter panic I have if I even think too hard about doing them.

Stuff that challenges my fear but in an enjoyable way, and that (usually) doesn’t lead to panic.

Exactly that! A goal can be crazy and scary, but it should be something you want to do because you think you’ll enjoy the experience and/or the achievement. If not, stick it on the ‘never’ list and spend your time on more fun things.

I’ll never walk a Victoria’s Secret show (come on, it looks fun!).

I’ll -very probably- never be a great, wellknown and well loved script writer/director. I refuse to make my ‘probably I’ll never’ into a real I’ll never, so I’m keeping that one for myself.

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