Many of us approach our thirtieth birthdays with anxiety, even dread. We start looking for gray hairs and paying attention to ads for wrinkle creams. We question whether we are climbing the career ladder quickly enough. We hear the biological clock ticking loudly and worry that soon we will be too old to bear children.
Astrologers call the period between ages twenty-eight and thirty "Saturn Return." That's because it's the first time the planet Saturn completes its cycle through your birth chart and returns to the spot it occupied when you were born. Internationally respected astrologer Rob Hand calls Saturn Return "one of the most important times in your life . . . a time of endings and new beginnings."
For most of us, ending a phase of life that is familiar and embarking on one that is new and untried is unsettling, even painful. Few people describe Saturn Return as a pleasant period. While undergoing your Saturn Return you may find yourself turning inward and reflecting on your individual destiny. You examine your true needs and desires and the role you want to play on the world's stage. You may feel lonely and alienated from those around you, while family and friends think you are shutting them out. But this is a necessary period of consolidation, when you must retreat from the distractions of the outer world and focus on yourself at your most fundamental level. The Saturn Return is every individual's search for the Holy Grail.
Coming of Age
The first Saturn Return marks the end of youth and the beginning of the productive adult years. It is now that you truly become an adult––not at eighteen or twenty-one. You realize your need to define yourself as an individual within society and to demonstrate what you've learned. Newswoman Jane Pauley described turning thirty as having grown into womanhood. German film director Werner Herzog compared this period in his life with a maiden's loss of virginity, a line drawn across his path marking the end of his youth.
This transition into adulthood is often accompanied by a sense of urgency, a feeling that you must try to accomplish everything you've ever wanted or planned to do now. Goals start to come sharply into focus. If you have not settled into a definite career, or have been pursuing one that is inappropriate for you, you'll experience a strong push to establish yourself in a more fulfilling occupation. Sometimes this means a complete change. During his first Saturn Return, Vincent Van Gogh decided to be a painter rather than a minister. More frequently it means a new direction or specialization within your chosen field.
If you have been building steadily toward a goal that's right for you, Saturn Return can be a time of achievement and rewards. Your labors bear fruit. Runner Bill Rodgers' Saturn Return marked the first of three consecutive Boston Marathon wins. William Faulkner published his first novel at age twenty-nine.
According to California astrologer Stephen Arroyo, author of Astrology, Karma and Transformation, "The quality of the entire experience and the extent to which it is felt to be a 'difficult' time depends entirely on how one has lived during the previous twenty-nine years." If you have been pursuing an unsuitable vocation or merely fulfilling someone else's expectations, Saturn can be relentless in prodding you to make adjustments.
Revising Worn Out Patterns
Saturn strips away illusions and points out limitations, allowing you to view yourself in a harsh, often unflattering light. At the same time, it endows you with prudence, practicality, and the perseverance to work hard toward achieving your purposes. Consequently, this is a good time to rearrange your career or lay the foundation for a new one.
Saturn Return almost always requires some major adjustments in lifestyle, attitudes, and relationships. Anything you have outgrown, or have tolerated but not found satisfying, must end now or be altered to meet your emerging needs. According to Hand, "Consciously or unconsciously, you are pruning your life of everything that is not relevant to what you really are as a human being."
Often interpersonal relationships are deeply affected by Saturn Return. Gail Sheehy wrote in Passages: Predictable Crises in Adult Life that during this period "Almost everyone who is married will question that commitment." The U.S. Census Bureau lists the peak divorce years as ages twenty-eight to thirty. Some people experience more subtle or private adjustments in their patterns of relating, such as shifts in responsibilities. Many couples decide to become parents, not only altering their relationships but their financial obligations and perhaps their vocations as well.
If a relationship is sound, based on mutual respect, honesty, and sharing, it will probably survive the test of Saturn Return and become even stronger. But a relationship begun before the partners knew what they really wanted is likely to fall apart. Relationships that start during this period may have a "fated" or "karmic" quality about them.
When Enough is Enough
"Saturn. . . is never easy to deal with because his function is that of promoting growth," explains astrologer Liz Greene, author of Saturn: A New Look at an Old Devil, "and it is only frustration and pain which at present are sufficient goads to get a human being moving." This frustration and pain have given Saturn a bad reputation. But the planet's often misunderstood value lies in its very ability to evoke pain. Like the pain of an illness, it warns that something is wrong. Saturn doesn't create the problems, it merely illuminates them.
Growth is often accompanied by trepidation and turmoil. As the old self is pushed aside to make room for the new, you may feel weak and vulnerable. You want to move ahead, yet are frustrated by a fear of doing so, torn between a compelling urge to throw off everything connected with your past and an equally frantic need to cling to the familiar rather than brave the great unknown.
Even if your external world seems to be in order, your internal structure may feel as though it's being assaulted with a battering ram. Nervous conditions, irritability, depression, insomnia, and feelings of insecurity are common. Most people go through some sort of identity crisis.
Although your Saturn Return may be disturbing, ultimately it reveals what you truly want and sweeps away the clutter that may have been impeding your progress. Your Saturn Return is a personal spring cleaning. No matter how difficult it seems to let go of inappropriate people and things, the first Saturn Return is the time to do it. For if lessons are not learned, the problems will come knocking again during your second Saturn Return at about age fifty-eight, when you are more set in your ways. Once the conflict is confronted, the tension usually subsides. You feel stronger and more capable of moving ahead.
Saturn Return is one of the most crucial turning points you ever experience, when you assume the greatest responsibility of all: responsibility for your own life.