Navigating the four quarters of life

Published 6:05 pm Thursday, December 14, 2023

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Much like a football or basketball game, life is divided into quarters.

We spend the majority of the first quarter (birth to 19 years) expanding our minds through the various stages of education. We learn from examples set by our parents as well the vast knowledge they share about commonsense. Then we learn in classrooms from those who teach us reading, writing, math, history, and science.

It’s during the first quarter where we build optimism, motivation, and confidence….the “fuel” we need to tackle the world that lies ahead.

In quarter two (20-to-39 years) we use the knowledge in the first quarter gained to build our future. It’s in this quarter of life where we typically choose the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with. We put down roots and welcome the next generation of our family. It’s also in this stage where – sometimes through trial and error – we find what we’re good at and settle down into a job that will hopefully take us to retirement.

It’s in the third quarter of life (40-to-59 years) where, borrowing another sports analogy, we serve as a “coach” to the next generation. We share the knowledge we gained with others, helping them build the same optimism, motivation, and confidence we gained in the first quarter of our lives.

That brings us to the fourth quarter (60-to-79 years…and hopefully we’ll see “overtime” depending on our personal health).

At my current age (70), I guess I’m running low on “timeouts” to delay the obvious. But the upside is that even though I’m not a wealthy man, I’ve enjoyed the richness that life has to offer.

I found the following story on my Facebook Wall this past weekend. The author is listed as unknown, but they seem to have a good grip on what the final quarter of life holds.

“A lot of us are in the last quarter of life, and I share the following without politics, religion, or race cards. Just gentle thoughts:

“You know, time has a way of catching you off-guard about how quickly it travels.

“It feels like just yesterday that I was young and ready to start adult-life. And in a way it feels like eons ago, and I wonder where the years have gone.

“I know I lived them all.

“I remember all my hopes and dreams. I remember the plans I made.

“And suddenly, here I am in the last quarter.

“How did I get here so fast?

“Where have the years gone, and where did my youth go?

“I can recall looking at older people, thinking how long it would take for me to get where they were. At that time, I couldn’t imagine being where I am now.

“And yet, here I am.

“My friends are retired, they all have grey hair, they move much slower than they did, and when I look at them I see older people. Some are in a better and some a worse condition than me. But I see the big difference. They are no longer the youthful, carefree, full-of-life friends.

“Just like me, age shows. And we are now the older people we used to look at and thought it was still a long way off.

“Now, I’ve entered this new season of my life, totally unprepared for the discomfort, aches, and pains, loss of energy and strength, and ability to do what I could, yet sometimes didn’t. At least I know that even though I’m in the last quarter and I have no idea how long this quarter will be, when my time on Earth is over, a new adventure awaits, too. I truly believe that.

“Yes, I do have things I wish I had never done. Yet so thankful for those I did. It’s all in a lifetime.

“And if you’re not in the last quarter yet, I want to remind you that it comes faster than you could anticipate. Do the things you still want to do as soon as possible. Don’t procrastinate. Life runs on fast legs.

“Do what you can today.

“There’s no promise that we will all see this season of life. Live for today. For now.

“Say the words to the ones you love. Often. Hopefully, some will appreciate the things you did for them. And if they don’t, it’s also okay.

“Life is truly a gift. Just be happy. It’s literally your choice.

Remember that health is a treasure, not wealth, gold and silver, property, or your bank balance.

“You may think that going out is nice, but believe me – coming home is better.

“You may forget names, and that’s okay because some have already forgotten that they knew you.

“The things you cared about previously, you may lose interest in. If you fall asleep in your favorite chair, stay there.

“Growing older is wonderful. It’s comfortable. It’s loaded with memories that you never grow tired of. It is an absolute treasure.

“Look after yourself.”

I wish I knew who wrote these words. They are to be commended for understanding the short distance that truly exists between the first and fourth quarters.

Yes, we were once like a team of football players, standing at the outer edge of the tunnel, eager to rush onto the field and conquer our opponents.

Life is full of victories and an equal number of losses. It’s all in the way we learned from those highs and lows that we’ll best be remembered.

Here’s hoping you lived life to the fullest until the final whistle!

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.      

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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