One day in my mid- to late twenties, I woke up and everything was wrong. I felt a profound dissatisfaction with almost everything in my life—my job, my education, my relationships, and myself. It happened abruptly; one day everything was fine, and I was having fun living as a single girl in New York with a suboptimal job, and the next day, that just wasn’t enough. I wanted more.
I decided to embark upon a new, unfamiliar course, and over the next three years, I quit my job, entered into a new relationship, went back to school, moved across the country, and changed careers. I even consigned most of my clothes and rebuilt my closet from scratch. I felt an urgent need to fix all these unresolved issues in my life, and all the things I thought I wanted … well, I just didn’t want them anymore. What I really wanted was to reinvent myself. What I didn’t know was that Saturn could be to blame.
From Youth to Maturity
To anyone in their late twenties or older, this probably sounds familiar. Maybe it happened to a friend, a relative, or yourself. Most likely, it happened in some form to just about everyone you know. During this period of life, everyone goes through a well-documented shift that astrologers refer to as the Saturn Return. In the zodiac, Saturn is the planet governing fear, maturity, order, lessons, depression, responsibility, and change. Every twenty-nine and a half years, it completes its full orbit around the sun and returns to the place in the sky where it was when you were born. This period in life is marked by extraordinary upheaval, chaos, change, and reflection. In their book Surviving Saturn’s Return: Overcoming the Most Tumultuous Time of Your Life, authors Sherene Schostak and Stefanie Iris Weiss write:
“You may feel isolated and afraid, question all your decisions, have crying fits, break off relationships (or start profound new ones), quit your job, feel like a failure, decide that what you’ve been doing with your life for the past X number of years has been total BS, feel more neurotic than you ever have in your life, have a mini (or maybe a major) mental breakdown, hate your parents and other authority figures, and generally wonder who the hell you are. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”
People go through this rebirth about every twenty-nine years. The first Saturn Return, which usually occurs between ages twenty-eight and thirty, marks the entrance to true adulthood and a new phase of maturity. It’s a time of great experimentation, inciting people to change careers, exit or enter relationships, and bring old ways of living to an end, taking on new responsibility or embarking on new paths. It prods people into becoming more motivated to accomplish something and reorganize their lives, and it’s a time for clearing out life’s clutter to make way for new adventures, new wisdom, and new experiences.
A second Saturn Return happens from about age fifty-eight to sixty. This second shift is said to mark the transition from the phase of maturity to the phase of wisdom. People lucky enough to live until age eighty-seven can expect to go through another shift, too.
A Major Transition
Although the apogee of the Saturn Return happens at age twenty-nine and a half, many people start feeling the effects a few years earlier. Starting at about age twenty-six, I saw my own friends quit their jobs, move to new cities, and start or end relationships. Two friends left their careers to go back to school, and a few got married while others got divorced. The return of Saturn is a period of intense self-discovery and reflection, and people often learn things about themselves that they never imagined. It’s a tumultuous time, and unfortunately, it’s not entirely enjoyable. Some truly struggle with the big questions of their life: who am I, what am I doing, what do I want?
Even those who do not ascribe to astrology acknowledge that the late-twenties and early-thirties are a chaotic and important time. Daniel Levinson, the author of Seasons of a Man’s Life and Seasons of a Woman’s Life found that the “age thirty transition” was among the most powerful periods of readjustment in a person’s life. According to statistics, it’s a time when divorces peak, because people aren’t the same as they were when they got married.
Saturn’s Return affects everyone, although some people experience it more severely than others do. Many people realize that they need to totally start over or learn something new, because their current life trajectory is unsatisfying. A fortunate few discover that they’ve made excellent life choices, and they deepen their connections to their partners and begin to truly excel in their careers.
From Confusion Comes Catharsis
The effects of the Saturn Return can last all the way until the mid-thirties, and although it’s marked by chaos, it usually resolves into clarity. After a few years of soul-searching and sometimes painful personal growth, most people come out on the other side with a clear idea of who they are and what they want for themselves. For anyone currently experiencing or about to go through a Saturn Return, the important thing is to listen to your instincts and act. Ignoring warning signs about things or people in your life who don’t make you happy can doom you to an even more painful detachment process down the road.
It’s easy to think of adulthood as a place at which to “arrive,” but the reality is that it’s a never-ending process of self-discovery and maturation. Schostak and Weiss write, “The Saturn Return ushers us into real adult life, finally and forever. We have a choice at this moment, and if we make the right decision and live out the will of our hearts, the next twenty-nine and a half years will be richer, happier, and smoother.”