When I was younger, I thought people in their 20s were adults. Many I knew had graduated college or embarked on career paths or gotten married. All could order a glass of wine at dinner without silently, anxiously reciting the details of their fake IDs, preparing for an interrogation. That, to me, was peak maturity.
Now that I’m in my 20s, I understand we’re all just muddling around, bumping into each other and trying to figure out where the free food is. Happy hour — what once seemed like a grand tradition of the employed grown-up — has been revealed as a shoddy attempt at budgeting. And even for twentysomethings who are perfectly financially secure, I don’t know a single one immune to the occasional existential panic of Wait, I have to go to work and pay bills and pretend to be a real person for the rest of my life?
It gives me comfort to know that the stars may have a hand in this feeling that we’re all faking adulthood. In astrology, you don’t technically exit adolescence until Saturn returns to the sign it occupied at your birth. And since Saturn takes about 29 years to orbit the sun, this celestial coming-of-age doesn’t occur until you’re almost 30.
The good news is that means our 20s are essentially a time to play dress-up — to experiment with lifestyles and identities as if we’re still children trying on costumes. The bad news is Saturn’s reckoning comes for everyone eventually. And it’s not always pretty.
The Romans associated Saturn with the god of time. The Greeks believed that Saturn represented death and, more complexly, a sort of gruesome rebirth. You may recall from Ancient Greece lessons in primary school that the mythic Saturn was so afraid of losing power and control, he devoured his own sons. So that’s promising.
Suffice it to say, Saturn has quite a reputation in astrological communities. It’s known to shine a light on fears, boundaries and limitations. As a social planet with a very wide orbit, it’s said to influence how large age groups relate to society. In other words, there may be a reason beyond our standard fear of aging that we tend to freak out as our 30th birthdays approach: We can sense that, perhaps cosmically, something significant is afoot — something larger and more universal than our own limited experience of humanity. This is our Saturn Return.
Here’s how it works. When you are roughly 28 or 29 years old — you can find out exactly when yours starts here — this intimidating planet circles back to the constellation it inhabited when you were born. Your Saturn Return will last from that moment until the planet leaves to visit the next sign in the zodiac, which is typically three years. During this time, the universe has a lot of potential to jumble your insides and make you feel a little panicky. (For example, in December, Saturn ended its three-year rendezvous with Sagittarius. That means that anyone with Saturn in Sagittarius, as per their birth chart, will have felt some seismic shifts in their karma from 2014 until the end of 2017.) Many people react by scrambling to find “the one,” impulsively switching careers or subtweeting about “fake friends” and “dying alone.”
During your Saturn Return, your insecurities and shortcomings will bubble to the surface. You will question the direction of your life and, if you don’t like the answer, you’ll need to equip yourself with the tools to create a new one. It’s not an easy task.
Saturn wants to strip away your external support systems. But the forecast isn’t all stormy. Up until it re-enters your sign, you may have been performing a certain lifestyle based on your upbringing or societal expectations. Saturn Return forces you to draw upon your internal resources and examine your true self. As it says in the Chinese divination text I Ching (and as the “Wall Street Playboys” account once plagiarized on Twitter), “chaos is another word for opportunity.”
Over the course of your Saturn Return, you will be forced to confront what you’ve manifested. If you have drifted through life without much thought or effort, you will likely have a more difficult time finding your sense of self and establishing a more developed, responsible identity. Conversely, if you have spent your 20s engaged in a self-conscious dialogue, you may experience some rewarding growth during your Saturn Return.
If you haven’t yet stumbled your way through your own Saturn Return, you may be a little excited or anxious — especially if your Saturn is in Capricorn because right now is your time to shine. And I get it. Impending adulthood can be daunting. But the important thing to remember is that Saturn does not necessarily intend you ill will; it simply wants to crack you open, watch your insides spill out and make sure your spine is intact. Cute, right?
If your 31st (or 32nd) birthday rolls around and you’re feeling a little shaken and bruised, don’t worry, there’s more! You’ll get a second round with Saturn Return around age 57 — maybe even a third for the luckiest and liveliest among us. Treat it like a do-over. Saturn wouldn’t want me to tell you this (it would prefer you handle it gracefully the first time around), but in reality, it’s never too late to grow up.
If you’ve already entered astrological adulthood, tell me, does any of what I just said make sense? And if so, how did you handle Saturn Return? Leave some advice for us star babies in the comments.
Collages by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.