Apropos of Nothing: Life is Lived in 20-year Quarters
An Editorial by Jamie Beckett

Divide (in quarters) and conquer. That’s the way life is lived. Like a football game but with less padding and way more timeouts and penalties.

As I see it, life is lived in four parts. Quarters if you will. Like a football game, but with much stiffer penalties for going out-of-bounds, or roughing up the other players. Each part lasts about 20 years. Not exactly 20 years. But more or less 20 years. Your mileage may vary.

In the first quarter we each live life more or less as playful idiots. That’s not an altogether bad thing. After all, who wants a 4-year-old who would rather calculate your federal tax bill than play with mud pies? That’s just weird. We’re supposed to be playful idiots at that stage of life. Fortunately, human beings left to their own devices tend to fill the playful idiot role extraordinarily well. Of course, we’re supposed to outgrow it, but many don’t. Consider the 535 Members of Congress for example.

I digress.

In the second quarter we start to see real problems pop up. Firstly, because with a couple decades of life behind us, we’re pretty sure we’ve got this grownup thing wired. But we don’t. This is just one of many, many errors in judgement we’ll make during this phase of life. If you’ve got anything on the ball at all you’ll get used to it because being wrong is going to happen a lot. Being wrong is our strength during this phase of life. We should revel in it. Unfortunately, most of us don’t grow out of this stage very well, either.

Go ahead and check me out on this. Visit pretty much any public place that strikes your fancy, look around at the people gathered there, and tell me if you don’t honestly think at least half of them are dumber than a box of rocks. They’re wrong on so many levels. I mean, who goes to the store in their pajamas? And why is that young girl driving an SUV the size of a school bus? And why didn’t she stop to leave a note after bashing into that car in the parking lot? Wait. Is that our car?

The third quarter is perhaps the most tiring of all phases of life. Perhaps it’s because there is no halftime break, which suggests we humans need better union representation. Or maybe it’s just because this is the part where we start to feel aches and pains as we collect the first of what will become a long list of pharmaceuticals we take religiously to keep ourselves alive into the fourth quarter. Hopefully. Assuming nothing unexpected happens and our insurance covers out of network office visits.

Prepare for disappointment. The third quarter is rife with it.

The third quarter is also where we begin to notice how the generation coming up behind us is lazier than we were, less motivated, probably not as smart, and plagued with questionable decision making skills. I mean, Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer? Really.

The baby boomers look down on the Gen-Xers. The Gen-Xers look down on the millennials. The millennials will look down on whoever comes after them. It’s just our way.

Incidentally, have you noticed how few millennials can even spell the word, “millennial?” It’s shocking.

The fourth quarter is a period of life that is both richly rewarding and filled with practical jokes. You’ve got more money than at any other point in your life, but because your elderly, well-worn body is failing, you may no longer be able to do anything more than operate the television’s remote control. Even that may be too much for you because in the fourth quarter we lose the ability to understand new technology.

Don’t believe me? Go to a retirement home, toss the nearest octogenarian an iPhone and ask them to Facetime a friend, or check tomorrow’s weather. They’ll look at you as if you just broke the news that The Shadow isn’t on prime time radio anymore. And it’s not.

The fourth quarter is also the phase of life when most of us will have a debilitating experience that will cause us to lay down in a box filled with fluffy, frilly upholstery. All our surviving friends and family will come visit and say (hopefully) wonderful things about what a truly special person we were.

Were. Past tense. Ugh.

If you can, you might want to avoid the fourth quarter. Or at least the last bit of it. Although, it is very restful. And for those of us in any other phase of life, the idea of being able to take a nap as often and for as long as we want, is worth the trouble of making it all the way to the end of the game.

Good luck.