What Are You Going to Do With Your QTL? (Quality Time Left)

Contributing Author: Mary Ashley, NDAA Well-being Task Force Vice Chair

It was during a pretty low-key weekend, channel surfing in between the last days of the 2021 Summer Olympic games and sampling some new Netflix when I came across the 2020/2021 National Football League Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies. Ok, I am honestly the last person to have likely landed on that channel, let alone staying on the channel to watch a few speeches. Not to say I don’t like football, let’s just say I’m not an obsessive football season fan. Seeing my beloved Trojans play on a Saturday or two? Absolutely. A chance to watch the Raiders play in the new Las Vegas stadium, perhaps. Enjoying rooting for home teams and cheering on players I have come to admire, yes. A super bowl? Well of course. They have entertainment, parties and great commercials. I surprised no one more than myself when I ended up watching every single speech of every player inducted over the Saturday and Sunday afternoon/evening.

I was truly moved listening to each man give gratitude, appreciation and respect to their families, teammates, friends and coaches over their entire lives. The theme of the night rang over and over again. Family. God. Love. Several men cried, openly appreciating the opportunities life had given them and the tough lessons they learned. Listening to each story was very moving. Just because you’ve been a famous athlete doesn’t mean your life is perfect.

The one that struck me the most was listening to Jimmy Johnson, former player and NFL coach, give his speech. It was the first time I have heard the expression “QTL” meaning “Quality Time Left” and it made me think. He said that Wayne Huizenga, former owner of the Miami Dolphins, told him that he knew how hard he worked, but not to forget about QTL. Despite not ever being much of a fan of his I have to admit, Jimmy Johnson made me think about how I want to live the rest of my life. It wasn’t the most moving speech of the night, but it made an impression. Don’t wait. Do things now.

His words seemed to say that he did not spend enough time with his sons while they were growing up. He was busy coaching football. In essence, he made a public apology to his two adult sons who were present in the crowd and cheering for him. It also sounded like he was not very present during his first marriage and thanked his son’s late mother for being there for them and acknowledged their sacrifices. To me, this was far more important than talking about championships, winning and games. With great energy, he encouraged others to not just dream, but to believe. To work to make what you believe happen. It was inspirational, for sure. But when he talked about being 78 years old and finally truly understanding that we have to appreciate the people we love before we’re not around to appreciate them anymore — that sunk in.

Now none of us knows how much time we have left, of course. But what if we treated our loved ones the very best we can with the quality time we have left. Many don’t have that opportunity. Sometimes the time left isn’t very high quality. People get sick; they are in pain; or become victims of unforeseen circumstances. Every day that I wake up, feel pretty good and am able to communicate with others, that’s quality time to spend with people I love. Sometimes we put off trips and “wait” until the holidays or a special occasion to see people. The pandemic certainly contributed to that. However, because we have the technology now to “see” each other, listen to one another and send messages, what is our excuse for not making the effort to communicate with one another? Being busy?

Do we have to wait until retirement to start enjoying our lives?

Many of us have to work, perhaps even longer than we anticipated. We have bills, responsibilities and people to take care of, including ourselves. Are we spending all our time working and not taking notice of the beauty around us? We can take joy in the little things, spend time (not necessarily money) on the things that matter. We need to take the time and make moments count. A conversation, a smile, a shared meal, all create memories. Neglecting our friendships and believing we “just don’t have the time” is truly a waste of it.

While most of us in our lifetime won’t be standing up at a podium in front of thousands of people, receiving accolades and awards for our accomplishments, we can all do something with our own QTL. The time is now.

Well-being Task Force Vice Chair, Mary Ashley, is a Deputy District Attorney with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office. Along with being a Board member of NDAA, Mary is also a member of the California District Attorneys Association and NDAA’s Vice Chair of the Women Prosecutors Section.

The National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) is the oldest and largest national organization representing state and local prosecutors in the country.