If Saturn Return were the crazy dream I had last night that you didn’t care about, here’s how I’d explain it to you anyway: Saturn Return is the planet’s orbital homecoming to the spot it was in when you were born. It takes 29.5 years for Saturn to make this trip. Like returning back to your high school hangout over Thanksgiving break, your first Saturn Return is known to cause a sort of late twenties existential angst, growth, discomfort and a second puberty of the emotional variety. The focus and span of each person’s Saturn Return will vary depending on a whole slew of mathematics, and the amount of times a person experiences Saturn Return depends on how many rounds of 29.5 years they can fit into their lives. (In [hopeful] theory, most of us will have another at 59, and another at 88.5.)
During our first Saturn Return, if you believe all of this, we quit jobs to take risks and fulfill passions. We end longterm romantic relationships, or begin new, pivotal ones. We shed friendships that no longer serve us and seek out those who support, encourage and uplift. We develop less of a tolerance for bullshit, and grow thicker skins. This time is uncomfortable and awkward, confusing and messy, sometimes brutally so. And we learn a lot. An astrologer I saw recently said anything that happens during my Saturn Return isn’t going to be permanent but rather, kick up a whole lot of dust, illuminate the answers to questions I didn’t know I was asking and teach me things about myself.
The thing of it is, I thought I went through my Saturn Return two years ago.
Three months into a fresh 27, I sat on the balcony of a Brooklyn apartment and applauded myself, privately, for bringing a jacket. It was one of my best friend’s birthdays. She, too, was turning 27. We sat huddled around pizza and cake and wine with less of a fear of hangovers than we both have now at 29. So we drank. Big fat goblets of alcoholic grape juice slid down our gullets to chase an uncomfortable amount of icing. You’d gag. We kind of gagged. It didn’t matter because 27 felt like some kind of victory. This was a celebration that the fun-but-poor-decision-making stupidity of 26 had ended.
At our most buzzed, her sister — a few years older, married, with a child and all the wisdom that comes from 3 a.m. diaper-changing — unfolded a piece of paper she’d printed off a Wikipedia page. She cleared her throat and we turned our heads. In honor of my friend’s 27th, she had prepared a reading on the astrological phenomenon known as Saturn Return. She gave the digest, which I listened to in pieces.
Misinformation or misunderstanding led me to believe that 27 was the year our Saturn Returns would happen, The Year of the Journey. I loved the idea that I’d start to shed all my bad habits and bad humans like reptilian skins, and that I’d enter 28 a more complete person. It felt like the promise of a new me waving to the old me from the celestial horizon. I worried about what all of this could mean, sure. Ever the self improvement-obsessed person, however, I loved that I’d have an excuse for the maelstrom of dropped balls this Saturn Return seemed to promise would slip from my butter fingers in exchange for a better me. I would blame everything on this planet.
So I did. For one year I attributed every cramp, ache, pain, pimple, bitch, moan, tear, bloat (all metaphorical — the physical manifestations I still blamed on my period) to a planet. I preached to others to do so, too. “Don’t worry,” I told countless 27-year-old friends. “You’re in your Saturn Return.” And it was, for me, a very weird year: relationships of all kinds, romantic, familial and friend-wise, shifted around and reprioritized. The way I thought about my job, my career, my future began to change shape. My vices and every worst part of myself became clear. At the year’s best, the greater parts of myself, my points of pride, began to solidify out of hypothetical matter. This, too, was Saturn’s doing, I told myself.
The illumination happened as my friend’s sister predicted, but I entered 28 with less answers than I was born into this world with. All I had was a lousy slogan that said, “Blame Saturn Return,” and no more Saturn Return to blame.
So whatever. I went on with life, as one does, and blamed Mercury every time it went into retrograde instead. Every blunder, source of discomfort, feeling of claustrophobia — I chalked up to New York City, to working, to stress. Meanwhile, every good decision, sign of growth, happy fortune — I chalked right up to luck.
Just around my 29th birthday, in May 2017, I ran into a friend who is most definitely a witch, who’s way more into this astrology stuff than I am. (It’s more entertainment for me. I actually, literally, cannot tell you anything about your sign unless I’m reading Susan Miller.) She asked if I’d had my Saturn Return chart read. I said no, but that I’d gone through it at 27.
“You’re turning 29,” she said with a terrified, excited look in her eye, as though she learned I were planning to visit the moon without a helmet. “Your Saturn Return hasn’t even begun yet.” She made me an appointment with the astrologer I mentioned earlier, which brings us to this very moment: Apparently, a whole new shit storm — the real Saturn Return — still awaits.
But in the strangest way, after a year of change with Saturn as my crutch, followed by another year of growing pains where I had no excuse, I feel genuinely prepared, sleeves rolled up, for what’s to come in a matter of weeks. I will very likely still blame the planets on anything that sucks. Come at me, world. I am ready to learn.
I will also, however, consider something that took me nearly 29 and a half years to begin to realize: Just as there will be mistakes where there’s no one to blame but yourself, there will be reasons to celebrate — a whole universe of them — that have everything, exclusively, to do with you.
Collages by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.