My name is Atticus.
You don’t know me, or maybe you do. It doesn’t really matter. I’m here to tell a story. The story of me and the part of me called Atticus.
Unfortunately, this story doesn’t have a happy beginning. This story starts when someone I knew died in a hotel room in Vancouver Canada.
A lot of people ask me why I started writing, why I wear a mask, why I chose to be anonymous... To these, Ill usually answer something simple like, "I’m shy" or "To keep my writing more vulnerable". There’s truth to those answers and they will always be part of the reason, but it’s much bigger than that. It’s time to tell the longer story, the painful story, now. Because it’s selfish to keep my story to myself when it can be for all of us.
A few years before I started writing I had a cool job, a fancy car, motorcycle, sailboat, and a little pinch of fame. Life was exciting but I was sad. Something, maybe everything, was missing. The fame, even the small amount I had, made me sad. Fame is a tricky thing. On the one hand, it gives you everything you want. On the other, it takes away everything you need.
Fame is addicting. It feels too good. Every time someone recognizes you in the streets and says hello, it feels good. You start relying on it. You start needing it. But what you soon realize is, like a drug, it's fleeting. It's not real. It never lasts.
And then something happened. Someone I knew died in a hotel room in Vancouver. The truth is, I didn’t know him well, not really. I saw him at parties. We had the same friends. And even though we ended up thousands of miles away we were both from the same tiny island in Canada. I guess in some ways he was me. A version of me, albeit more talented and better looking. Whatever he was to me he was all of the exciting things about success. About making it, whatever it was. But every time I saw him, I felt the same thing. The strange confusion of fame and sadness that I saw in so many famous people I knew.
That summer I took a trip to France. It was there and through a friend that I met another actor. A guy named Michael Madsen. He’s the bad guy from Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs, one of Justin Bieber’s music videos. As fate would have it we became friends and he taught me a lot about fame, sadness, and how poetry saved his life.
How interesting, I thought. Here was this certified American badass. A motorcycle-riding, whiskey-drinking badass, telling me to write poetry. It was only then that I felt permission to explore that side of myself. The more creative side, the more vulnerable side. A few days later I was walking the streets of Paris and saw something beautiful, so I wrote it down. I posted it online under the name Atticus. Why? I honestly just liked the name. Over time I kept writing and kept posting. To my surprise, the account grew. It grew fast.
It wasn’t long until I was offered my first book deal. My publisher suggested then that I take off the mask I had been wearing to keep my identity a secret. “You’ll sell a million books,” they said, “You can go on all of the morning shows and become a huge success”. All I could think was why? For who? At what cost?
But a part of me wanted to. That vain part that hides in all of us. The part of me that liked getting high-fived in the streets, having photos taken of me, getting DM's from beautiful people. But in my heart, I knew where that led. For me, it led to sadness. And I didn't want to be sad. I wanted to be happy. Don’t we all?
So, I kept the mask on. And I asked my fans who knew to help keep me hidden. And any press and companies I met with, I asked them too. And amazingly, almost all of them did. They got it. They saw it for what it was. A guy who wanted to create things, share things, and live a beautiful life, but not be burdened by fame.
I’ll always remember the time a woman once stood up at the end of one of my shows. I was wearing a mask, as I often did, and she said, “In a world obsessed with fame, I think it’s beautiful that you send love from the shadows. And I don’t know why you choose that particular mask, but I like that it’s reflective... so we can see ourselves in you.”
I realized then that that’s what Atticus is. It's not me at all, it’s you. And you, and you.
When people get my words tattooed, it becomes theirs. When people read my words and share them with loved ones, it becomes theirs. And because I have no face, they can put the face they need on the words. Atticus becomes whoever they need. In whatever gender or color or face they like. Because it’s not about who Atticus is. It’s about who you are. It’s about words, it’s about feeling. Feeling hope, love, and connection in a time that needs hope love, and connection more than ever before.
Atticus is yours. And when I die or have nothing else to say, I’ll leave him behind for all of you.
And hopefully, he will continue to give others some of the same healing that he has given me.
Love from the shadows,