Things Fall Apart: My Saturn Return Experience

Photo: Elizabeth Hay Photography

Photo: Elizabeth Hay Photography

I remember the first time I learned about the Saturn Return: I was 24 and getting my chart read by an astrologer in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She informed me that in three to four years, I’d come to a serious crossroads in my life, when I’d be forced to decide who I wanted to become, and what I would need to let go of in order to get there. As a person who has always been obsessed with control—I like knowing what comes next, and am not keen on surprises—this concept terrified me. “It can be the most tumultuous period in your life, but the good news is—what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” the astrologer told me, laughing. 

Astrologically speaking, the Saturn Return is a time in our lives, usually between the ages of 28 and 31, when Saturn completes its orbit around the sun and returns to the same place it was in the sky at the exact time of your birth. Saturn is the “teacher” of the planets, concerned with bringing forth lessons from past experiences. Some refer to the Saturn Return as a quasi “quarter life” crisis—a time when the rubber meets the road, and forces us to look inward, take a serious pause, and rethink the way we’ve been doing things. 

Four years later, I’m in the thick of my Saturn Return. It began in November of 2017 (an astrologer confirmed this, but you can easily calculate yours using an online calculator). As anticipated, I’m feeling… uncomfortable. Different. Uneasy. Some days it feels like I’m stuck in a pressure cooker, or in the eye of the storm. While I can’t pretend to know what’s on the other side of this transition, I have learned that resisting it only makes it harder. So I’m leaning into this “new normal”—here are some of my lessons thus far. 

I’m Questioning Everything I Thought I Knew

Ever since I can remember, I have been obsessed with textbook career success. I started interning at InStyle I was 19 and worked my way up the corporate ladder, holding various roles at fashion and beauty companies in New York City and most recently San Francisco. Though the roles I held ranged from editor and writer to producer and trainer, there was one throughline: I was really good at working for other people. I loved the consistently and stability that corporate offered, and admittedly, I thought entrepreneurs were crazy (taxes?! Constant pressure?! No thank you!!!). I remember telling a good friend of mine just a few years ago: “I don’t have an entrepreneurial bone in my body.”

Now, only a couple of years later, those themes couldn’t be more untrue. At the end of March, I left my corporate job in San Francisco to pursue building Kismet full-time, and try my hand at freelance writing and consulting. While my reasons for leaving corporate were multi-layered, one thing became glaringly true to me during my time at my last job: As much as I loved the beauty industry, I could no longer dedicate my days to executing someone else’s vision. 

There’s a Lot of Friction

Making the decision to leave my job may sound like smooth sailing, but in fact it tormented me. The logistics were tough—how would I get health insurance? How would I support myself?—but on top of the more practical questions, I struggled with a pseudo identity crisis. Without a successful corporate job, who was I? When people at parties asked me what I “did", what would I say? 

Moreover, I started to realize that I had a habit of equating “busy-ness” to worthiness. Oftentimes, I found it easier to be busy doing something—anything—than just to be present with my thoughts and ask myself the tough questions: Was my work meaningful? Was I making a difference? Categorically, the Saturn Return is a time when these questions come front and center, and you’re tasked with either dealing with them directly or brushing them off. I’m tackling these questions head on right now, with the hope that the decisions I come to will help generate a greater sense of peace and contentment down the road. But it’s still incredibly challenging in the moment. 

Learn to Ask for Help When You Need It

I started feeling pulled to leave my the corporate world in November—ironically, the exact same time that my Saturn Return began. But while my gut knew what I needed to do, my mind was completely terrified. One of the best things I did was start seeing a holistic psychotherapist regularly for the first time in my life. She became my sounding board, allowing me to recognize how deeply my soul needed space to breathe and to create, and helped me navigate the persistence of my ego telling me otherwise.

I’m someone who has always prided myself on my independence and resourcefulness, so it really went against my nature to ask for help. But help I needed. The way my therapist describes the process of therapy is like a guide belaying you at the bottom of a rock wall: you still do all the climbing yourself, and your therapist serves a spotter—to guide you past rocks and ridges you might not be able to see, and to buffer the invevitable falls. I’m not sure I would have been able to successfully navigate this massive transition if it wasn’t for her guidance, and I’m still committed to seeing her weekly. It’s one of the best decisions I've ever made. 

The Only Way Out is Through

Five months into my Saturn Return, I can’t pretend to have any of the answers about what this time period will bring. But, I’m starting to feel an openness—for a new way of doing things, for asking for help when I need it, for considering that maybe, just maybe, there’s a different approach. I used to do things in a way that was incredibly rigid—I held on tightly with a Kung Fu grip, afraid that if I released it, everything might crumble at my feet.  Now, I’m experimenting with what a more easeful, less controlled approach might look like. This isn’t to say that my old programming and beliefs don’t pop up often, in fact, quite the opposite—it’s a daily battle. But I’m getting curious. Taking a magnifying glass and looking closely at the old ways I’ve done things, and seeing if there’s room for a different approach. A wise friend once told me that sometimes things need to fall apart so that better things can fall into place. I think I’ll make this my Saturn Return mantra. ✨

—Leah Abrahams

Natalie Rizzo