Do you happen to remember, or are you current aware, of how obnoxious, angsty or sad everyone is between the ages of 27 and 30ish? Could it be their Saturn returns phase? It seems like, well, if 70 is the new 50, then surely 29 is the new 16 – like an adult stage puberty.
The astrology goes a little something like this. When you are born the planet Saturn is in a certain position and it will take the first 29.4 years of your life for it to return to that exact same position in the sky. Every 29.4 years, it is thought, will bring a new phase of your life, first adulthood, then maturity and old age – if you’re lucky.
I called local professional astrologer Stephanie Iris Weiss, also a sometimes-adjunct professor of writing and gender studies and author of Surviving Saturn’s Return: Overcoming the Most Tumultuous Time of Your Life (Mcgraw-Hill/Contemporary Books, 2004), one half of the Saturn Sisters. For the record, I don’t know Stephanie at all, I just looked her up after finding her book and gave her a call and she confirmed my suspicions.
“Absolutely – I don’t really think you are an adult before your Saturn returns, frankly,” she told me by phone.
You’ve heard of the 27 Club – the super talented musicians and entertainers that did not make it past the angsty age of 27? This concept emanated in the late 1960s with the overdose deaths of musicians like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, but the suicide death of Kurt Cobain two and a half decades later cemented this idea of age specific emotional tumult into the pop culture lore. Unfortunately Jimi, Janis and Kurt never made it through their adult puberty.
“It tends to predominate around that age between approximately really 26-31, it can be a little more extended but it’s more intense from 27-29, your Saturn return is exact when you’re 29 and a half. Once you’ve passed 29 and a half it fades,” Stephanie told me.
For the rest of us non-celebrity humans, Saturn returns plays out in subtle yet meaningful ways that can be a mix of devastating and difficult, but ultimately shape the path we take in life. When I was 26, my dad died, then I broke up with my boyfriend of almost five years. The next year I got laid off from the office gig I had for three years and shifted towards the amazing freelance freedom and the new partner I’ve found since. One after another, these experiences amounted to building my path.
These are all themes that Stephanie confirmed were obstacles and crises that Saturn had guided me through to help me hammer out exactly what it was that I wanted from life and how I was going to go after those things.
“Typically people are really searching for meaning,” she said, “and it gets to a point that whatever they’re doing that’s not providing the meaning that they so deeply desire – it’s really palpable, and the things that used to be satisfactory no longer feel satisfactory.”
I immediately identified – after laboring to do journalism for pennies at a newspaper, I was not deriving the satisfaction that I wanted from it. I was angsty and miserable at 27, and could only imagine going through Saturn’s return as Kurt Cobain, after having written a “generational anthem,” lost all privacy and become bombarded by international press corps.
I took my severance and my unemployment checks and slung together a local magazine during a recession. Voila. Out of crisis comes opportunity – if you make it past those big hurdles.
“We have a lot of these ideas about being an adult – graduating from college, getting our first real job, moving out of our parents house – but none of those are real markers of adulthood because emotionally, spiritually, mentally, we’re really not adults until we pass through our Saturn returns,” Stephanie told me.
Suddenly it was all coming into focus for me. I was experiencing this sort of zen feeling about the whole thing now that I’m in my 30s – almost like I’m an adult. That for whatever pain and suffering had happened through my late 20s – and there was plenty – I had come out the other end of it happy and headed in the right direction.
“That really forces you to grapple with adulthood in a really meaningful way,” Stephanie continued. “Particularly, I think for this generation where economically it’s almost impossible for half the people right now in the country to literally move out of their parents home, and people are riddled with debt.”
That is definitely something that has major implications on taking the reigns of adulthood – especially if generations of people are unable to get the jobs needed to pay off student debt and become solvent self-sufficient adults. It has certainly felt like an impossible burden to me that it is now standard to take on insane levels of debt to get an education. How in the world is anyone going to pay that back in a bad economy? Even the best ideas and people can falter under such intense pressure.
“It’s also really interesting because [Saturn’s current position is] Scorpio, which rules debt,” Stefanie told me. “He rules other people’s money – so it’s really interesting that this is the generation that is looking at this issue more than any other and waking up and really wanting to do something about it – like with the Occupy community doing the Strike Debt [Campaign] and a lot of people talking about how it’s not fair that they should be riddled with all this college debt, and just have to deal with that for the rest of their lives.”
Stefanie was blowing my mind – and she didn’t stop there.
“What I do think is really interesting about the timing – 30 years ago is when the current cycle of debt really started, that was the Reagan era, and that was when all of these terrible policies that have created this world of debt that we live in began to start – a combination of austerity and tax breaks for the rich – all of the things Occupy stands against, really started in earnest in the Reagan era. Along the way many things happened that made it worse, but that’s when it started.”
What happens, I asked, if we fight against the signs that we need to change and shift into the right course for our lives, and continue to pursue things we think we’re supposed to pursue – either because of outside pressures, business, family, career shifts, or other upheaval?
“If you really don’t listen to it, if you just refuse if you put up walls around you, and you say, ‘no I am going to stay in this bad relationship and I’m going to marry this person and I’m going to have babies with them’ and then you get divorced in ten years and then you know, very often, Saturn will continue throughout the cycles of your life to give you fresh wake up calls.”
It seems like wake up calls abound these days. So basically, what Stefanie was telling me was that it might hurt now to take risks or make big changes – like pursuing artistic capabilities or moving across country or realigning your priorities – but it’s better to go after what you truly want now than to put it off until later because the pain will compound itself over time.
But never fear, she added, “It doesn’t have to be terrible because Saturn really is this great planet who is affording you opportunities to live your life the way you should live it – and sometimes that’s terrifying and risky and feels like, ‘oh my god, can I really do this, this seems huge, maybe I’m not bold enough to make this choice,’ but Saturn really wants you to do that because it’s right for you.”