Endless ambitions

Things I’ve always wanted to do but have never quite gotten around to due to laziness, terror, a complete lack of skill, plain old reality, or being thwarted by life.

1. Do hard sums
As a biologist I’ve always been in awe of physicists and mathematicians. I would love to be able to do reals maths; I mean, sit-down-and-ponder-a-set-of-equations good at maths. Me and Feynman, just chatting sums.

2. Speak another language
Fluently. Maybe even a couple — anything besides being very British and only speaking English. It’d be great to casually break into conversation in a foreign land. Pith helmets are optional.

3. Be a gymnast
Because they’re basically magical creatures when compared to the rest of us.

4. Paint
Just like Michelangelo. No point aiming low.

5. Code
Much like doing hard sums, I’d like to be able to pour over pages of code. And of course to be staring at a terminal, watching code whizz by as I hack something or other listing to obligatory metal or techno music.

6. Be insanely strong
I’ll settle for being a little shy of Hulk standards, but I’d like to be fully able to pull lorries, throw boulders and generally be more Herculean at any moment.

7. Know more stuff
With a broad and advanced enough knowledge to see me through a round of University Challenge, and inspire a shocked raised eyebrow or two from Paxman.

8. Recall verses of poetry or philosophy
Because Frasier.

9. See more world
I don’t mean like gap year brats finding themselves in south east Asia. I mean like Sir David Attenborough, traipsing across the most remote regions of the globe, in order to be fully loaded with jaw-dropping anecdotes, experiences and obscure knowledge.

10. Do science as a career
More than anything in the world I’d like to be doing scientific research as my job: lab, experiments, students, papers — all of it. Since some fucker literally stole my PhD, sending a big chunk of my life down the pan, this got sidelined. But if I could have anything, it’d be this. And since we’re wishing, I’d like it to be old school academia: back when it wasn’t all chasing grants and publications, but more mahogany desks, whisky and smoking jacket discussions, pipes, and long beards. Minus the sexism. Oh, and with expeditions.

11. Save someone from a burning building
Or any other sort of heroic moment from movies.

12. Be a fighter
I go between wanting to be a hard-as-nails bare-knuckle champ, and a Crouching Tiger-sort of martial artist. Fantasy dilemmas are tough.

13. Have abs
Nothing more to add.

14. Write a novel
Something real. Something truthful. Maybe something that makes me a stack of cash and fame — fame that I shun and go into isolation, releasing a much-anticipated book one every eight years.

15. Be a rock star
Eddie Vedder will do nicely.

16. Refute a theory
Straight up object to a long-established scientific theory. Have a ton of supporting evidence. Engage in a bitter debate about it for years. Maybe even be proven right.

17. Advance a field
Yep — aiming high again. Who wouldn’t like to propose one of the great theories that advances a field? Maybe tying up the pesky problem of quantum gravity, the mysteries of development, or knocking a disease out of existence.

18. Build a house
By the sea. Something simple.

19. Go off grid
And just live in the wild for a few years. Work on my beard and wildlife skills.

20. Teach
I love teaching people about science, and it’d be great to do it all of the time. Just not at a school, with rules. Lots of terrible rules.

21. Discover uncharted lands
Completely off the map. A bit like Indiana Jones. Scratch that: I’d like to be Indiana Jones.

22. Be an awesome dad
A little grumpy. Super cool.

23. Be content
No more lists. No more superficial ambitions. Just be. Mmmm.

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