What I Realized On My Mid-Pandemic 50th Birthday

by Amy Nielsen
Originally Published: 
Birthday candle
Fernando Trabanco Fotografía/Getty

Dear Family and Friends,

Today I quietly turned 50. Along with the rest of the world who’ve crossed monumental milestones during this pandemic, the pomp and circumstance weren’t worth the risk. And although it feels somewhat melancholy not to be surrounded by family and friends, today, I chose to reflect positively on the past and optimistically on the future.

In my last 50 years, I had the luxury of being surrounded by an entire support system as I gave birth to my four amazing children. Young moms giving birth today must choose one person. I have walked across three graduation stages, cheered by hundreds. Today’s graduates must celebrate at home. I attended some of the most incredible live sporting events with thousands of fans, high-fiving strangers as our team scored. Today we collectively yearn for the normalcy of watching live sports even from the safety of our own living rooms. I was able to gather with family around my grandfather’s hospital bed as he peacefully passed away. Today’s sick and dying sadly face this alone.

Reflecting on my pre-pandemic 50 makes me wonder how my post-pandemic 50 will look. Although I may not greet new friends with a handshake or old friends with a hug, I believe a newfound appreciation for personal hygiene will reduce the spread of disease and make our population safer. Although it may be a long time before we gather by the thousands to cheer on a team or listen to a concert, we will deeply appreciate intimate gatherings of those we care for the most. Right now, our planet is healing thanks to a reduction in carbon emissions; it is my hope this will inspire us to welcome renewable energy on a global level.

I genuinely mourn for the loss of life, and the pain and suffering this pandemic has caused so many. It is heartbreaking. But I also know we are stronger than we think. Yes, we will take that pain with us as we move forward. But we will take that big emotion and flip it into motivation. We will never forget, but we will adapt, and humanity will evolve.

And because of that, I know that I will have another 50 years. And in my next 50, I will cheer for you as I watch you cross that stage and receive the diploma you worked so hard for. I will gather in a church with hundreds who love you and watch you say, “I do.” I will visit you in the hospital and hold your newborn baby. I will not miss one of your kid’s birthday parties or piano recitals or soccer games. I’ll come anytime you ask, and I’ll even come when you don’t! And I know that when I reach my next 50, you will be there to celebrate with me as I blow out those 100 candles!

To my family and friends, I love you and miss you. Stay safe.


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