“I have never…”

As some of you may know, I am an avid diary-keeper, and have kept a daily journal record pretty much continuously from the mid-70s, when I was a teenager. A few years ago I started to reread ‘this day in history’ from 20, 30 and 40 years ago, so currently I’m reading what I got up to in April 1983,1993 and 2003.

Twenty years ago this week a friend and I were visiting another friend, Sarah, who was living and teaching in Rome. It was our first visit to the city, and we had a very good time. We were on our Easter break, but Sarah’s school was still in session, so during the day we did the tourist things and visited various places while she was at work. In the evenings we met up with Sarah and her friends/colleagues and we went to bars and restaurants together.

Towards the end of the holiday, a group of us went out for a good meal, a few drinks, and then started to play a drinking game: ‘I have never…’ Each person in turn chose to tell us something they had never done, and if any of us HAD done it, we would share the story, and down our drink…

In my diary, this is what I wrote:

” ‘I have never…’ made me thoughtful. I realised that sometimes we don’t do things just because we have never done them before, so we convince ourselves ‘that’s not something I do’. If we do this we narrow our options and limit our experiences. I decided that next term I will do something ‘I have never’ done before once a week (I think once a day might probably be over-ambitious!) “

The weekend before, Sarah had taken us on the metro and the train to the beach. At lunchtime we had visited a restaurant with an extensive buffet selection, and Sarah had filled a large plate of starters for us to share. When she brought it over to our table I saw that it included baby octopus – a delicacy in Rome. I’d said, ‘I don’t eat those.’ But as I said it, I realised that I had never tried them. I said ‘I don’t eat those’ when, more accurately, it was just that ‘I had never’ eaten them before. So I decided I would try them. And they were delicious. In the light of this, playing the ‘I have never…’ game several days later struck a chord.

I did fulfil my commitment and intentionally did a number of things in the following weeks that I had never done before – the first was ordering room service in a hotel, I remember. No great courage required, but I just wanted to challenge the ‘I have never’ mentality and prove to myself that being more open-minded and (marginally!) more adventurous might be a good thing. I might discover tastes, interests, experiences which became part of the way I lived my life, and that would be a positive move.

Many years on, in October 2019 at the #WomenEd Unconference in Sheffield, I made a pledge to myself to try writing a novel – something I had never attempted before (but had always secretly wanted to do). I published my three short novels in one volume (e-book and paperback) in the spring of 2022, and I feel very proud of them. I’m now working on a fourth, a longer piece about a family of four navigating the pandemic between March 2020 and the summer of 2021. I’m finding it a very interesting creative challenge.

So whether it’s in a personal context or in a professional context, perhaps we sometimes need to challenge ourselves when we find ourselves saying, or even just thinking, ‘I don’t do that.’ If we recognised that we are in danger of limiting our options and circumscribing our lives because of ingrained habits, lack of imagination or nerve, might we take on new things and develop more eclectic tastes? Or achieve more than we ever thought possible?

What’s the worst that can happen?

Photo credit:

2 thoughts on ““I have never…”

  1. Great e- mail Jill, I was thinking of you today, I was sorting a few things to take on holiday we are going to Cyprus in 3 weeks time, we can fly from Norwich so it should be easy.
    Your book is the first thing I have packed in my hand luggage, I am really looking forward to relaxing and reading it.
    Alan can amuse himself in the pool, the only sport he is allowed to do, he is getting very frustrated, hopefully the holiday will do him good.Take care, love from Helen xx

    Sent from my iPad

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Helen. Have sent you a message on FB. Enjoy Crete – hope it’s just what you both need at the moment – and I really hope you like the three short novels! Really appreciate your support.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s