Rules for the Unruly
Simon and Schuster, 2001
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From the introduction...
...I didn't know many people in the audience that night, but as I
watched their faces, I started to imagine I recognized a few of them.
This one with the long hair and glasses was a little smartypants who
thought she was going to win all the academic awards at graduation
and then march off to Harvard. This one looked really haggard because
she had just had a positive pregnancy test and couldn't tell her
parents, and the boy with whom she was in love wouldn't even talk to
her. This one wasn't listening because she was looking down at her
thighs thinking about how fat she was and wondering how she could
have been depraved enough to choose this skirt to wear tonight.
The one next to her wasn't listening either, because he had more
important things to worry about, like the chemistry test and the
history paper and the SATs. The one in the back in the motorcycle
jacket and black jeans was a disaffected bohemian type who liked to
drink and take drugs and smoke cigarettes because that was the best
way to become a famous musician, and also the best way to drown out
all the hideously self-conscious voices in his head. And then there
was the pissed-off-looking one with the frizzy hair, her parents on
either side of her, who couldn't even believe they made her come to
this stupid thing, and what's worse they were to making her go to
college even though she couldn't stand any school of any kind for one
more goddamn minute.
All my little freaks and dreamers out there, my insomniacs and
vegetarians. My poet-geniuses, my mad hackers, my eggheads with
dreadlocks and my maniac brainiacs, all those Gifted and Talented and
Crazy for Sures – I only hoped I knew how to talk so they would
hear. Their dreams were big and strange and their hearts were tender
and breakable and the bright shiny mass-produced moment was half
blinding them to the weird and perfect futures that awaited each one
just over the horizon. They were wrong about half of everything they
thought they knew, but totally right about one thing. They were going
Somewhere to be Somebody Someday. And if they didn't know where or
who or how, this lack of certainty wasn't going to stop them from
throwing themselves into the project as hard as they could.
These were my people. Like the friends I had back then and the ones I
added along the way, they were the misfit musketeers who kept each
other company and told each other jokes and made each other brave.
And when I looked down at my paper and saw the seven things, I knew
they were exactly what I had to say.
As I started to speak, I noticed that even my freaky
geniuses with better things to think about were paying attention. And
afterwards, after I was done and the other speeches were over, and
all the kids had paraded across the stage to receive their awards,
they started coming up to me and saying thank you, and their parents
were hugging my mom. Everybody wanted to know if I had this thing
written down somewhere.
I didn't, but now I do – though it's turned out to be kind of an
extended remix. So this is for them, and for you.
Seven Rules for the Unruly:
The path is not straight
∼ Mistakes need not be fatal
∼ People are more important than achievements or possessions
∼ Be gentle with your parents
∼ Never stop doing what you care about most
∼ Learn to use a semicolon
∼ You will find love
Excerpted from Rules for the Unruly, Marion Winik (Fireside, 2001). Reprinted with permission of the author.