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The Astrological Reason Your Life Starts Sucking at Age 27

Apr 15 2016 8:10 PM
The Astrological Reason Your Life Starts Sucking at Age 27

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Wondering why the years between age 27 and 30 are the most stressful and shitty? Blame Saturn return.

There are two ways to think about the stars: They're either just up there, sometimes offering a great view but ultimately meaningless, or they're a predetermined road map of our lives, a tool offering guidance and support. More and more young women are falling into the latter camp, looking to astrology to make sense of life in all its endless chaos.

The moment we're born, our astrological fate is set by the exact location of the planets. It's much more than a question of "what's your sign." Each planet has a different pattern, and astrology determines the effects of these movements as they relate to the location of the planet at the moment of birth. One of the most intense planetary relationships is that between moving Saturn and natal Saturn—meaning the placement of Saturn in the sky at any given moment compared with the placement at the moment you were born.

Read More: The Rise of the Queer Astrology Movement

It takes about 29 years for Saturn to come back to the same place it was at birth, and that moment is called the Saturn return. For many people, this return is a moment of reckoning, of coming to terms with who we are in the world and what we're going to make of our lives. It's a quarter-life crisis written by the planets, and although everyone's is different, your chart can offer hints as to what you're up against. Astrologer Chani Nicholas puts it simply: "Saturn is a planet that teaches us, whether we want to learn or not, about boundaries, about responsibility, about maturity, and about coming into our own as grown-ass people."

For some people, this coming into one's own manifests as a realization that the choices we made in our early twenties may not have been the right ones. For others, it can manifest as external hardship—death, job loss—that forces us to have a moment of reckoning. The duration and intensity of the Saturn Return is determined by the rest of your chart, and varies greatly from person to person.

At age 27—the traditional start of one's Saturn return—Rebecca, 31, now a project manager at a tech company in Southern California, moved across the country with her boyfriend. Four years later, she sees this process in very typically Saturnian terms."Those were some dark times," she said, referring to her then-boyfriend, who turned out to be controlling. "After almost two years, I finally broke up with him, and life started to improve." But that wasn't all the Saturn return had in store for her: "I made a couple friends in the aftermath that helped me up the first couple steps, but then proved to be toxic, so I ditched them, too. I ditched the last, most toxic one right before my 30th birthday."

This might sound like your typical quarter-life meltdown, or the result of some crappy decisions when it comes to dating or friends, but the things that happen aren't nearly as important as the way that we grow from them. It's about more than learning from our mistakes; the Saturn Return represents a moment to see our decisions as representing our identity, our personhood, and deciding if the person who is experiencing all these things is who we really are. Thirty is traditionally seen as being the end of the Saturn return, and this seemed to be true for Rebecca.

It was also true for Leah, 29. When she was 27, she could tell something was amiss and decided to change careers. She had been working in the food industry, and the partying that was an inherent part of her day to day just wasn't sitting right with her. "My Saturn return period became an exercise in realizing the superego was weighing in higher than the ego," Leah told me, referring to Freud's ideas of the self. "Suddenly my decisions and reactions were made with more (perhaps too much) rationale and empathy, and processing the consequences led to a heft of lingering guilt." Rather than acting impulsively, she began to weigh her choices more seriously. As she approaches 30, she told me, the lesson of her Saturn return is already apparent. "It taught me to see the difference between when to turn to self-preserving behaviors and when to indulge in risk," she said.

Saturn is a planet that teaches us, whether we want to learn or not, about boundaries and responsibility.

What is it about this age that makes us have these come-to-Jesus moments, though? And how is the hardship we experience at 27, 28, and 29 different from the struggles we undergo earlier in life? Chani Nicholas says it's partly a natural response to getting older, but it also has to do with one of Saturn's other movements: as the planet moves across the sky, its progress is measured in squares. Every seven years, Saturn will be square to its natal position in your chart, and this is called a quarter square. These seven-year cycles aren't as intense as the Saturn return, but they do represent moments of growth and self-reflection.

At 21, we experience our third Saturn quarter square, which is a moment to imagine the future. "At the beginning of our twenties," Nicholas told me, "we have these ideas of what we're going to do. You know, 'By the time I'm 30, I'm going to x, y, z,'" and then we get to 30, and we're like, 'Fuck, that's not what I thought was going to happen.'" Reckoning with the disconnect between our imagined life and the one we're actually living can cause us to evaluate our choices, relationships, and decisions. It's also a reckoning with the very fact of getting older. "For the first time, we're connected to the fact that we're not so young and cute anymore," Nicholas said. "We start to understand—and some of us are better at this than others depending on where we are psychologically in our lives—whatever it means to grow up."

For an astrologer like Nicholas, there are signs in someone's chart that act like clues as to whether or not their return is going to be particularly hard. "Astrologically, there are different factors that will tell you if the Saturn return is going to be easier or harder for somebody," Nicholas says, and although sometimes "it's awful, and brutal, and it's unfair, and it's horrific," it's important to see it as more than that.

Astrologer Amy Herring wrote that one of the most important factors affecting the Saturn return is the moon, which regulates emotional evolution. As Saturn is cycling through your chart and forcing you to reckon with boundaries and connections, the moon is also progressing through your chart, changing the way you deal with emotion and feeling. These two cycles—of boundaries and of emotion—are essential to our development into adults. We may say "the heart wants what the heart wants," which is governed by the moon, but when Saturn gets involved, the heart must want realistically and maturely. This creates a tension where we have to weigh our emotional desires with our identity and our need to be independent.

The ability to see the growth potential in these painful moments is the key to surviving the Saturn return. "The most important thing I can say," Nicholas said, "is that life is really long, even it it's short. And if you're 28 and shit hits the fan, you probably not going to understand what it's all about for awhile. And so trusting process and being in whatever your Saturn return brings you is the most important thing." While that might not be too much of a comfort to people about to begin their return, it's really the only way to look at it, as even astrologers can't predict the future with 100 percent accuracy.

"Besides the guidelines I laid out, which are pretty general," Nicholas said, "nobody can tell you what's going to happen." For Rebecca, however, her extremely painful return had a light at the end of it. After her she turned thirty, she could palpably sense a shift as her Return released.The year that followed was, in her words, "the best year of my entire life," largely because of "a new, refreshing, give-no-fucks attitude that allows me to achieve peace no matter what fuckery is going on around me."

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