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Interlude: Introducing My Reflection
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The changing of the seasons is upon us. Slowly but consistently, the mellow breezes of spring are giving way to the overbearing heat and the occasional, childishly aggressive rains of midsummer. This time of year, the pace of life slows down, and I always feel like summers are less of a time for doing, and more of a time for being, for focusing on our needs and allowing new sensations to flood us, making us feel alive and emboldened for the coming winter.
Summers are also a time for reflection. More than any other season perhaps, the summer months encompass some of our fondest childhood memories. It was during these languid and mostly school-free months that we made and strengthened friendships, visited far-away grandparents, learned to ride a bike or swim in the ocean, and read some of our favourite books while gorging ourselves on watermelon. As such, each summer arrives complete with echoes of its past lives.
Therefore, I want to start the season with a little reflection of my own.
That’s Reason No. #1.
There are two further reasons why I want to do this.
Let’s move on to No. #2.
You may have noticed that I changed my name.
I did not make this decision lightly, like some Twitter snowflake swapping the emojis in their username to coincide with the arrival of a new season of You. Rather, after much deliberation, I decided that it would be best for me, on both a personal and a creative level, to start using a pen name.
From now on, then, I shall publish my writing exclusively under Andrei Atanasov.
I explained some of the reasoning behind why I chose this particular name in this chat thread from last week:
What I didn’t tell you then was how weird adopting a new name has felt. I look at my Substack profile, and I don’t recognize the person staring back at me. I know it was the right choice, but this new identity, this new creative freedom, feels foreign. A bit like how a shapeshifter must feel after changing into a new body, even though they were the one who chose that particular shape in the first place.
All right, cool. What does your name have to do with summer?
It will become clear soon, I promise. Now settle down, and let me tell you Reason No. #3.
A few months ago, I read this wonderful post by the onlyin the world.
This post is a product of some deep soul-searching. After realizing that most of his new subscribers probably haven’t read his older stuff, and therefore they must not know all that much about him, Lyle decides to reintroduce himself to his audience.
I truly loved the self-awareness and honesty that Lyle displays in this post, but didn’t think much more about it at the time. I archived it, as one does, and moved on. But it seems the idea of a reintroduction got stuck to my brain.
Get to the point, Andrei.
All right, all right. Sheesh. It’s summer, man. Where else do you have to be?
These last few months have been chock full of things happening on all fronts—some of which I wrote to you about, while others I chose to keep to myself, at least for now—so although I wanted to, I haven’t really found the time to take it all in.
Last week, I set out to intentionally absorb all that’s been happening on the creative front. I wanted to evaluate the way this newsletter has been growing. So I pulled up my Stats page, and noticed a few things.
Apparently, it’s been 7 months since I launched Practice Space.
Seven. Freaking. Months.
During this time, I wrote fifteen main issues and two interludes. More importantly, having sent out my first post to 10 subscribers back in November, I’m happy to report that over 180 of you have reached me as of this one.
(By the way, I want to take this opportunity to thank you all, so much, for being here with me week after week. I know how busy you must be, and that sometimes even 10 minutes of reading every two weeks can feel like too big of a commitment. Know that I see you, and I appreciate you!)
Even more poignantly though, the same Stats page tells me that more than half of you found your way here in the last three months alone. That, quite frankly, feels both crazy and amazing.
Poring over these stats, Lyle’s post sprang to mind again, and the following thought butted in:
Most of you must not know much about me.
You might have been introduced to my writing through one of my more popular posts, like this one, or this one, or stumbled upon me thanks to the 10 newsletters (amazing in their own right!) which recommend Practice Space. But unless you’ve read everything I’ve ever written, and I’m not so delusional as to assume that you did, you’re probably missing a lot of background information.
So here’s where we stand: it’s summer, I don’t know who I am anymore, and most of you never did.
You see where I’m going with this.
I think it’s time I introduced myself again.
Name: Andrei Atanasov
HQ: Bucharest, Romania
Occupation (by day): lawyer, specialising in criminal law
Occupation (by night): writer, specialising in essays and memoir; occasional self-help guru, though don’t let me hear you call me that
I’ve been writing seriously since October 2019. That’s more than three and a half years of skin in this game. I don’t know where all that time’s gone.
Actually, I kind of do. For at least one of these three point five years, I struggled with a debilitating, possibly fictitious disease called writer’s block. At times, it got so bad I imagined I’d never come up with a good sentence again. I’ve shared a bit about this barren period here, but there’s still lots I haven’t unpacked.
I also sat for lots of exams, as I convolutedly explained here, and I’m sad to report that part of my life isn’t over yet.
But on to happier things.
I love T-shirts. I actually think they’re my favourite clothing item. I love how simply pairing a favourite color with one of millions of available designs allows people to showcase their uniqueness. Once the early pandemic mania was over and we little masked mice were allowed out of our cages, I found myself facing a fashion identity crisis: it’d been years since I last bought new clothes, and what I owned no longer felt like me. So I went investigating, and I realized…well, you’ll just have to read and find out, won’t you?
I also love cats. In fact, on the last day of March this year, my wife and I picked one off the street and adopted it. His name is Vineri.
I used the word “wife”, so here’s another thing about me: I’m freshly married. My wife and I have known each other since 2012, so it took us 10 years to tie the knot. That might sound like a lot, but again, I don’t know where all those years have gone.
What else? I think a lot. Sometimes, my musings lead me to questioning the nature of our perceived reality, and what we consider worth stressing about. Other times, I reevaluate my approach to certain aspects of my life, to see if I might find a better way to go about things. Each of the pieces I linked to in this paragraph contains an exercise derived from the topic discussed. I wouldn’t call it self-help exactly, but these exercises have been of immense help to me, so maybe they’ll be of some help to you.
I also think a lot about my childhood. I think, above all, about the time I spent in school. I think about the friends I made and lost, about the boys who bullied me and whom, in turn, I bullied, and about my teachers. For most of us, whether we liked it or not, school was our first foundational period, our first true encounter with real life. It’s where we learned to read, speak well, and write. It’s where we met our first authority figures, who taught the little beasts that we were how to live among people. Probing memories of this time, I find that many fascinating things show up.
Although I haven’t done much of that lately, I also write fiction sometimes. I’ve published two pieces on this newsletter (one and two), and a few more in literary magazines over the years, but I have many more drafts in my archives. Perhaps they’ll see the light of day someday.
Oh, I almost forgot. Every so often, I publish interviews with people I find deeply, irresistibly interesting. So far, I’ve interviewed my friends J.M. Landon, Elizabeth M. Castillo, and John Chrostek. The whole process of coming up with questions, which includes consuming everything these wonderful people have produced that I can get my hands on (be it music, poems, stories, or blog posts), is loads of fun, and I’ve got a whole list of people I want to talk to, so stay tuned!
These past seven months, I’ve shared a lot about myself. Much more than, frankly, I ever thought I would, in such public a place as the internet. And I’m far from done.
I haven’t told you about my childhood dog who was put down, or “sent to the army”, as my parents put it. I haven’t said anything about the time I crashed my car and how I haven’t touched a pedal in over eight years. And except for a fleeting mention in an essay about animal rights, I haven’t even introduced the current family dog.
I’ve got lots more stories for you, so I hope you’ll stick with me.
With the blessing of the universe, we’ll be doing this a while.
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