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tales from the golden age

Darlene Madott at her home in Etobicoke, Ont., on Nov. 10.Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

In Tales from the Golden Age, retirees talk about their spending, savings and whether life after work is what they expected.

Darlene Madott, 70, Toronto

I retired a couple of years ago from a career as a family lawyer, toiling in what I describe as the “vineyards of matrimonial misery” for 35 years.

It was very emotional for me to surrender my law licence. It surprised me how much I cried. I hadn’t realized how much I had grown to value the role and how much the law had anchored me. But there’s a time in life when you know it no longer makes sense to continue what you’re doing. For me, that was practising law on the front lines.

I don’t like to use the word “retirement.” Instead, I prefer to call it a reinvention or transformation. For me, it was an opportunity to do full-time what I’d been doing on the margins for years, which was writing. I published seven works of fiction before retirement. I wrote and published my eighth book, Dying Times, during the pandemic, and my ninth book, Winners and Losers, is due to be published in the spring of 2023. I have also started mentoring young writers, which I find very rewarding. It’s something I would never have been able to find the time for when I was working.

I do miss the people component of practising law. It was a huge shock to the system, going from 14-hour working days to reinventing myself on a daily basis. I also retired around the start of the pandemic, during the lockdowns, so that also made the transition challenging.

Isolation in retirement is something to be wary of. It’s very easy to carry on an inner monologue and to auger down. You need to recognize the warning signs. Thankfully, I have my writing to keep me occupied. I also love to go for long walks around the three beautiful parks near my home.

I became a grandmother in retirement too, and one of the most wonderful things I do is take my grandson to the park. We throw sticks into the water and count them in English and in French.

I do worry a bit about outliving my capital in retirement. I come from a line of long livers: My grandmother lived to 104, all my aunts lived to more than 100, and my father died at 94. I’m grateful for the longevity and good health, and I’m not afraid to tighten my belt. However, I’m not interested in surviving. I’m interested in thriving, and I want to do something special with this precious gift of time.

To me, retirement is work – just a different kind. It requires a transformation of your inner thought process. If I can’t immediately think of something to look forward to on a given day, I create something. We don’t find ourselves in retirement, we create ourselves, just as we do in every other stage of life.

As told to Brenda Bouw

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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