I celebrated my 41st birthday at a Mexican restaurant, sitting across from my husband. My soon-to-be-ex-husband, that is. We had just agreed to divorce the week before, and it was still sinking in. Obviously -- I mean, who separates from their husband and then goes out for dinner with them the following weekend? I do, apparently. I think we were both in denial.
It was a warm May evening. The jalapeño margarita I sipped at our sidewalk table numbed me a little. I was pivoting from one life to another, not quite sure where I was headed.
After 16 years of marriage, my husband and I separated so we could each become our best selves. If that sounds flaky and self-indulgent, I should probably mention that for my husband that meant coming out of the closet. For me that meant ... well, I didn't even dare imagine at that point. I was a 41-year-old mom in a young city.
It's not every birthday that you find yourself on the edge of such stark uncertainty. I didn't know it then, sitting there on my 41st birthday, trying to ignore my terror, but that crazy marriage left me with a gift. It had kept me young and hungry.
In fact, I was about to have one of the best years of my life. I would reflect, renew friendships, make new friends, expand my mind, connect with my son, feel the strength of new independence, find my feet, grow a stronger heart. I'm glad I didn't know, because even though I worked harder than I'd ever worked in my life, most of this came as an unexpected pleasure.
It's the funniest thing. Turning 41 in the midst of such a radical life change didn't make me feel like I was getting older. It made me feel more awake and alive. It felt more like a step into a parallel universe. It felt like a second chance. Some people might call it a mid-life crisis. I'll call it the next exciting adventure.
What was your most significant milestone birthday?