I'm an Astrologer, and My Own Saturn Return Shook Me to My Core

Nobody is safe from getting real

A woman holding a mirror in reflection to her Saturn Return
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Most life stories hit a major turning point around age 29. Some call this getting real, some call it turning 30, but for the astrologically inclined, this is the Saturn Return. Saturn Returns—when Saturn reaches the same degree it was at the moment you were born, usually every 29.5 years—are times of increased responsibility, job burnout, relationship upheavals, and milestone accomplishments. The Saturn Return is the end of youth and the start of true adulthood. Though Saturn Returns used to be inside baseball amongst astro nerds, the transit has made its way into pop astrology, and even pop culture with a feature on Ariana Grande and Kacey Musgraves’ latest albums. There are more people in the know about their Saturn Return than ever before, but can anyone really prepare for this cosmic rite of passage? IMO, there’s no one size fits all survival guide. I’m an astrologer, and I wasn't even ready for mine.

The Saturn Return looms heavy but it’s hard to describe until you experience it. The transit typically lasts three years, while Saturn is in the same sign it was when you were born. Though Saturnian vibes (think: limits, responsibility, boundaries) are present for all three years, the return culminates over a few weeks or months when Saturn reaches the exact degree as in your birth chart. (You can track the dates of your Saturn Return here.)

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I failed to anticipate what a Saturn Return really is— when everything you’ve been avoiding finally catches up to you. 

My Saturn is in Capricorn in the 4th house—a part of the chart that deals with home, family and foundations.My biggest fear going into my Saturn Return was that an unforeseen family emergency or health scare would pop up, forcing me to move back to my hometown. Mostly though, I was stoked for a deserved commencement into the next era of my life. I was hoping to move away from New York City, where I’d been since college, and felt trapped by inertia. But my flights of fancy about where to move and worries about my aging parents’ wellbeing were just smokescreens for the actual issues at hand. I failed to anticipate what a Saturn Return really is—when everything you’ve been avoiding finally catches up to you. 

Flash forward to the peak of my Saturn Return: I packed my entire life into a Toyota Prius and drove cross-country to Los Angeles. Most people make cross-country moves for a job, or to be closer to family, or for an important relationship. But I arrived in Los Angeles with no job or apartment, hoping that the luck that had propelled me through my 20s in New York would continue in LA. I thought that getting out of New York was going to solve all of my problems, but thanks to Saturn, it instead revealed all of them. As Saturn reached the exact degree it is in my birth chart, I was lying on a couch in my friend’s spare bedroom in Silver Lake, frantically Googling things like, “What if I just moved across the country and already want to move back?” 

Beyond being broke and 3,000 miles away from all of my friends and family, my biggest problem was lacking a real home or foundation. This problem actually came as a shock to me. I remember telling my older cousins about my upcoming move at Christmas dinner, a few days before I left on my road trip, and barely registering their look of concern when I told them I didn’t yet have a solid place to live. Before my Saturn Return, I was always the roommate who’d agree to take the tiny room with a weird window for less rent; the friend happy to house sit for weeks at a time; the person who could care less if she was even on the lease. But as I split time between friends’ guest rooms and awful sublets in LA, my mental health quickly deteriorated. I was sick of living in places filled with other people’s stuff. I thought what I needed was to get out of New York, but really I needed privacy and boundaries. “Wherever you go, there you are,” they say.

Surprising to no one, I was in LA for barely eight months before I packed everything back into the Prius and drove home. When I returned as the prodigal daughter, I still had nowhere of my own to live, so I had to move in with my parents. This was the realization of my worst fears about my Saturn Return. But instead of having to go back home to take care of my parents as I had feared, I needed them to take care of me. Saturn humbles you like that. 

If the Saturn Return is a bridge between youth and adulthood, there are some who arrive like ribbon cutters at the bridge’s grand opening ceremony. Others, like me, get pulled under the bridge by a troll. Many have an experience that’s neither extreme. But no matter how celebrated you are, no matter how “prepared” you are, Saturn’s always going to have his own agenda.

Ancient stargazers thought of Saturn as the portal between the known and unknown word. Even the ribbon cutters among us can’t anticipate everything. The transition from youth to true adulthood isn’t easy and that’s because maturity requires accepting one’s own mortality. There isn’t time to do everything in this life, so what is it you really want to do? The choices made at the Saturn Return aren’t just for the moment, they’re for the next 30 years, until Saturn comes back around again.

My Saturn Return ended in December 2020. Like clockwork, a few months later, in February 2021, I signed a lease on my first solo apartment. I thought I wanted an escape, but really I wanted a home. It took awhile to recover from everything that had transpired, but I can now admit that I feel so much more comfortable in this life. It took some work to break these new settings in, but Saturn has a way of rewarding you after he puts you through the ringer. Maybe not with what you want, but definitely with what you need.

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Jaime Wright is an astrologer and writer based in NYC. She has been writing PureWow’s weekly and monthly horoscope columns since 2019, and also authors the cult favorite...