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This is not a letter about Benedict Cumberbatch

This is not a letter about Benedict Cumberbatch
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Annabelle Hickson
Annabelle Hickson Tenterfield, NSW
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This is an excerpt from Galah editor Annabelle Hickson's fortnightly newsletter, made for our Galah subscribers. You are our most valuable supporters. You keep the lights on and the engine room running. Thank you.

A boyfriend once pointed out that I had no hobbies, which he thought was 'a bit sad’. He annoyingly had many, including spearfishing, which I pointed out was ‘a bit weird’. 

While the idea of suiting up in diving gear and swimming in non shark-free, bloody waters sounded like my idea of hell, he was right. It was a bit sad I didn’t have my own less grim hobby to look forward to on the weekend. I was in my twenties and apart from a good job and a good time, I had no idea what I wanted to do. 

Then I watched my equally hobbyless (if you don’t count late night parties) best friend fall in love with the early morning sport of rowing. She’d say things like ‘it was so beautiful out there on the water as the sun rose’ as I bewilderedly examined her for signs of mental illness. But really I wanted to want something like that too. I tried. I pulled out the cello and signed up for some lessons, I enrolled in a documentary making short-course, but it was all flapping around wanting to want rather than actually wanting.

It was only after becoming a mother, when both the good job and good times were replaced by pregnancies, feeding routines and Peppa Pig - the ground zero of self-identity - that something shifted on the hobby front. For reasons I still cannot understand, I felt compelled to take photos of flowers and food and beautiful afternoon light, having never been interested in photography before. I started standing on top of tables with my camera held overhead, telling children to ‘get out of my light’. It brought me joy. There was no clear reason or obvious outcome. I just wanted to do it and I did. 

It’s easy to justify that hobby now: Because of the hobby, I started a blog which turned into a book which shape-shifted into a magazine which is why you are reading this newsletter, but I know in my bones that more important than any of these outcomes was the experience of actually wanting to do something purely for pleasure. That feeling lit me up on the inside. That feeling energised me not only in a work sense, but in the relationships with my family too. That feeling is important. You can’t control when and where it will show up. I wanted it to be in the cello domain, but instead it bubbled up when I was taking photos of half dying flowers in the fading light while my young children complained about wanting dinner.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of joy having just finished reading This is not a Book about Benedict Cumberbatch, which is not a book about the author’s obsession with Benedict Cumberbatch (well it kind of is and it is VERY funny) but rather a book about letting yourself be passionate about whatever you feel passionate about, even if that means totally surrendering yourself to the Cumberverse and plastering your office with images of Cumberbatch while also being a happily-married grown-up mother of two with a proper job.

I implore you to read this book. Or to google image search Benedict Cumberbatch for half an hour. Or to tell me when you last experienced joy for joy’s sake, even if it’s totally bonkers. (I think an anonymous collection of these stories could be a valuable resource for us all.) And if you do see a flash of joy for joy’s sake, grip onto it with all your might and don’t let go.

Love Annabelle

(My friend) got tired of people asking her if she was going to renovate her house. She worked out the best way to shut down these conversations was simply to say: “Renovation is not on my list of interests.” It wasn’t figurative. She actually created a list of interests so “home renovation” could, specifically, not be on it. I told my sister Amber about this, and later she reported she was so inspired, she tried to construct her own list of interests but wrote “gardening” and then had a minor breakdown because she couldn't think of anything else. Also, she doesn’t even like gardening.’

From Tabitha Carvan's This is not a Book about Benedict Cumberbatch