If you're about to turn 27, you probably have a lot on your plate. Maybe you're considering your professional future; maybe you're getting hitched or starting a family; maybe you've become an amateur detective, trying to crack the Mystery of Why Can't I Drink As Much As I Used To Without Being Hungover For 62 Hours Straight. Great pursuits, all around — but they may be complicated by your Saturn return, an astrological phenomenon famous for shaking up your entire existence in the years before your 30th birthday.
Though you may be most familiar with it as the title of the second-best No Doubt album, the term "Saturn return" refers to moment when Saturn completes its orbit around the sun, landing back in the same spot it was in when you were born. This completed rotation is believed by astrologers to usher you into a new life phase. "Sounds great!" you may be saying. "I'd love a new life phase; this old one has too many bank overdraft fees and casually nude roommates in it." That's the spirit! But unfortunately, a Saturn return doesn't painlessly usher you into a new era of maturity where you suddenly have a 401(k) and stop using lawn furniture indoors; rather, the Saturn return is a phase when all the foundations of your life — from your job to your relationships — will be tested. And yes, some of them will kinda blow up in your face.
But while a Saturn return can be stressful, in the end, all that upheaval can make you a stronger and happier person. Life is better on the other side, I promise. Are you ready? Just kidding, you're totally not ready. But it's coming anyway! People, welcome to your Saturn return!
What Is A Saturn Return?
Saturn's orbit around the sun takes 29 1/2 years — so as it nears the point in the sky where it was when you were born, your life may start to feel a bit unmoored. Traditionally, astrologers think of the years immediately before and after Saturn returns as a testing period — a time to throw every aspect of your current life against the wall and see what sticks. This process is designed to help you discover what aspects of your life are worth keeping as you transition into your thirties and Serious Adult Life, and what parts should be left in the Dumpster of Youth (alongside your bottles of bottom-shelf tequila and that pink furry bikini that you thought you might wear to a rave someday or something).
The bad news? If you're not already actively interrogating every aspect of your life, checking to see if your decisions align with your beliefs and goals, Saturn will do it for you! This process takes different forms for everyone, but can most commonly be found in the form of general life upset — you may get fired from a job you hate (or realize that you don't actually love the job you've spent your whole life training for); you may find that a seemingly sturdy romantic relationship has suddenly crumbled; you may just keep waking up in the middle of the night to Google "Is my life is a sham?"
No matter what form it takes, the classic sign that you're in the midst of a Saturn return is that you're having experiences that force you to question your goals and the foundations you've built your adult life on.
How Can You Figure Out If You're In Your Saturn Return?
You can use this system of astrological charts to try to figure out the exact date of your Saturn return. But if you're super math-challenged and get winded just looking at numerical charts, you can use a Saturn return calculator.
Though most people's Saturn returns hit them between the ages of 28 and 31, everyone's Saturn return window is a little different, so don't write off changes that start hitting you at 26 — you may just be getting an early start. And if you're about to turn 28 and have experienced no real upheaval, don't get smug — there's still time for everything to become a mess, buddy! (You'll also experience Saturn returns before your 60th and 90th birthday, so even if you freeze out this Saturn on this return, there is still plenty of opportunity for Saturn to force you to reassess your priorities/mess you up real good).
What Can You Expect From Your Saturn Return?
While you're in the midst of your Saturn return, some awesome stuff may happen — choices you made that were good for you may yield great results, so you may see an awesome romantic relationship become even more awesome, or get a promotion doing work that you love. But often, when you're in the middle of a Saturn return, you just feel like a total mess. Which is totally normal — for most of us, it takes a hot minute to learn who you really are, and so many of the choices you've made by 26 or 27 will turn out to be ones that don't necessarily suit your adult life.
That kind of long-view thinking, however, may not be that much of a comfort while your Saturn return is happening. During my own Saturn return years, I hemorrhaged relationships, fruitlessly tried to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and grew distant from some of my closest friends. I spent a lot of time beating myself up for the life decisions that had led to my then-life, where I lived in a bedroom with no windows and had bad credit because I never paid the $300 in late fees I had racked up after forgetting to return a rented DVD of Chappelle's Show.
But the upheavals of a Saturn return are ultimately for the best —they're about ending unsupportive relationships, getting out of jobs and friendships that make you unhappy, or becoming confident enough to pursue the life you want. As astrology expert Molly Hall wrote "The Saturn return often creates a crisis that puts you face-to-face with your fears." Mine certainly did — and forced me to ask myself whether I wanted to spend the rest of my adult life making carelessness financial decisions and developing rickets from lack of sun exposure. It turned out that I did not — and that realization was the first step I took towards developing a life that I actually enjoyed and was proud of.
Can You Do Anything To Prepare?
As astrology experts the Astro Twins told BuzzFeed, "Start by humbling thyself. No matter how many degrees, coups or accolades you may have, the Saturn return reminds us that there’s no substitute for life experience." So you may want to try opening yourself up to the idea that you don't always know exactly what you want or need — to accept that a relationship may be bad for you or a job may not be for you, and that you should let it go, rather than clinging to it out of comfort and familiarity.
So the best way to prep for a Saturn return may be to flip your perspective — instead of viewing things like breakups or career changes as signs that you're a "loser," view them as signs that you're building a life that will actually make you happy for the next thirty years. The rush to show off outward signs of maturity that you may see many people around you going for (marrying someone you're not sure about because it seems like an adult thing to do! Wearing business suits because you're "too old" for short shorts! Talking about how you can't do anything for fun now except have boring dinner parties'!) is mostly theater, and not a real foundation for the future.
But committing to learning about yourself from whatever your Saturn return throws your way? That can set the stage for a life where you possess real maturity.
What Will Life Be Like When My Saturn Return Is Over?
As someone talking to you from the other side of a Saturn return (I'm 33), I can attest that if you are able to cope with and embrace the changes that a Saturn return blow into your life, you can set the stage for an awesome few years. My 26th and 27th years were agonizing, and during those years, I often felt ready to give up, move to the mountains, and join some kind of commune/cult that subsisted by selling its own dried fruit snacks. But by my 28th birthday, I had started writing for the first time — something I'd always wanted to do but had been too scared to attempt — and met the dude I'd end up partnering with. And I genuinely don't believe that either of those things would have happened to me without suffering through the slings and arrows of my Saturn return.
Can I assure you that if you embrace your Saturn return, the love of your life will show up at your front door like a Fresh Direct order? Sadly, no. But it might. More than anything, a Saturn return is filled with surprises — and while I certainly won't say that they're all good, many of them will lead to good changes that will make all your emotional suffering seem worth it down the road. Finding out who you actually are is one of the most awesome surprises of adulthood — and if you play it right, you Saturn return can give you the kind of maturity and gravitas that you simply can't buy at Ann Taylor.