His lessons for life

Charles M. Blow is one of my favorite columnists. His wisdom inspires me, and his writing gives me much pleasure. I learn from him. He’s a brilliant writer, but those skills are not what placed him at The New York Times where he’s worked for 26 years.

Mr. Blow was born in Gibsland, Louisiana. Graduated magna cum laude from Grambling State University with a B.A. in mass communications in 1970. He loved the visual dimension and excelled in graphic design, and that’s ultimately what got him to The Times.

From his interview with The History Makers, we learn that as a young intern on the Shreveport Times, while still a student, he learned of a shop conference The Times was conducting in Atlanta. He had not registered or paid the fee, both of which were required, but he went anyway, talked his way past a security guard, borrowed a pencil and wrote a required essay on the spot, and waited. As conference leaders were wrapping up hours later, they noticed him and agreed to take a look at samples of his graphics. The Times didn’t have any internships for graphics designers, but it created one for him the next day.

His design work won several prestigious design prizes for The Times. Great deisgn isn’t his only talent.

Charles Blow also writes beautifully. In today’s op-ed column in The Times, he writes about the death of his older brother, Frederick, who recently died at age 58 following his battle with sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disease. A week after his death, his family buried Frederick in a segregated cemetery.

In today’s column, which carries the headline “My Brother Died and Reminded Me of These Life Lessons,” Charles writes these words:

“As I often say: Stop living this life like it’s a dress rehearsal. This is the show! There is only one performance. You don’t have time for fear and hesitation. Pursue your dreams. Be yourself. Love who you love, openly. Be free.

“Also, stop procrastinating. Stop thinking that there is time later to do the thing you want to do.”

Frederick, Charles wrote, was living in a small apartment in Texas. He had planned to move back to Louisiana into a house with the money he had been saving for years. He’d do it probably next year, Frederick told his family.

“Well, next year never came,” Charles wrote. “He never got to enjoy the money he had saved and buy the house he wanted.”

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