Carol Johnson has tried her hardest to look for a silver lining in getting a divorce at 58. After three decades with her ex-husband, adjusting to this new normal has been anything but easy. But slowly, she's started to re-embrace life.
"I may be just another 58-year-old baby-boomer divorcé, but I try to look at it this way: life is short -- you might as well smile through it," Johnson, a San Diego-based social media specialist and blogger, told The Huffington Post.
Below, Johnson, who expects to have her divorce finalized this year, shares her uplifting story of starting over again.
I should have seen it coming. The gym workouts, the new Porsche, then the final phase: he wanted a divorce after 30 years together.
I had given up my career, like so many women do, to raise our children and help build our lives together. So in a way, I actually lost my job and my husband on the same day. I felt like I had put 30 years into a dead-end job and now I had gotten fired. Who was going to hire a woman my age? I knew he wouldn’t be writing me a letter of recommendation.
It was a quite a shock after being married for so many years to be single, this time with teenagers. Our married friends turned away from me like divorce was something you could catch. I felt old, lonely and discarded. The house felt really empty, so we bought a cat to bring another living thing into our lives.
I knew I couldn’t spend too much time mourning a marriage that was obviously over. I really believe you can choose to be happy or you can choose to be unhappy, and I decided on happiness. It was scary and yet kind of exhilarating to think I had the chance to start over again. The one part I wasn’t so thrilled about was being dumped back into the stagnant dating pool at 58.
Eventually, I started taking better care of myself. As I was getting my hair cut I overheard the man next to me talking about his online dating experiences. He actually called his dates "meetings." At this point, he had been to so many "meetings," he was afraid he'd slip up one day and the women would know they weren't the only one. He made it sound so easy and fun that I went home and signed myself up on a few dating sites.
At first, online flirting is kind of fun. Then I started scheduling my own "meetings" for coffee. I treated them like job interviews so I wouldn’t be nervous. It's great trying to match the men to their online photos; believe me, some haven't updated their photos in years. I met a lot of nice people and heard some great stories. But the difficult part of dating at this age is that everyone has some kind of baggage. The men you date will probably be paying alimony themselves and having teenagers is sometimes like kryptonite -- some men want nothing to do with you -- but that's OK. You keep looking.
Today, as the divorce process wraps up, I am busy reinventing myself. I am writing and working and I blog. My smaller family has grown closer and we are starting to travel together. I know that I am a lucky woman.
To anyone going through a divorce at this age, please know that baby boomer divorces are skyrocketing, so you are far from alone. (In fact, you're part of the gray divorce trend.) In the wake of your divorce, try something new, reinvent yourself. Believe me, if I can do it, anyone can. Life is short, be happy.
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