A week and a half ago, I turned 28. I am already officially older than many of the people I’ve fashioned into heroes ever were. Jim Morrison. Kurt Cobain. Janis Joplin. Brian Jones. None of them lived as long as I have.
The idea of turning 27 excited me beyond belief. It was some kind of macabre idea of likeness, I guess. By 27, they had all done amazing things, and hit their highest of highs (in many respects). The opportunities felt electrically endless. My best friend flew across the country for my 27th birthday party, because he knew what a big deal it was for me.
One night, I was sketching a sugar skull or something, and had a lightning bolt moment. These people are my heroes. By 27, they were all they would ever be. I would soon be older than them, and I was terrified that I was all I would ever be, too. It’s all well and good having ‘heroes’ who inspire you, but when they’re so constricted, and by extension, you allow yourself to become constricted too, it’s time to man up and become your own hero.
And that became my mantra for 27. BE YOUR OWN HERO. There were a whole lot of things I was dissatisfied with about my life, and afraid of too, when I’m honest. And I kept hoping that some great event would strike and change everything for me. Make me okay with everything I was unhappy about. That night, hunched over a canvas, covered in paint and ink, I realised that there was no great event coming to change shit for me. I was the great event; I had to change things. I stewed over the idea for a while, and gnashed my teeth to the point of migraines before I grew the balls to face myself in the mirror and admit it out loud, though. Once I did, I thought it was going to be plain sailing. I figured now that the blinkers had come off and I could see so much more, I wouldn’t battle with fear and decisions as much, because it was the ‘bigger picture’. How wrong was I?! (Hint: VERY).
It didn’t take me long to understand that being my own hero was fucking terrifying. It didn’t mean that one day, I would change things, and feel on top of the world, and nothing would ever hurt me or scare me or get me down. (I think this means I watched far too much Disney in my teens, because I had an image of Hercules flexing his muscles and grinning when I thought about overcoming my fears and trials.) Instead, there was just as much angst, and just as many tears, and gnashing of teeth, and sleepless nights, and shortness of breath, as there had ever been. If not more. The difference was, somewhere inside me, I knew that it was worth something. I was learning not to hide behind my old choices. I was learning that I still had choices, and I wasn’t stuck in a life that was making me unhappy.
As I say, this didn’t happen overnight. It happened over months and months. There was a lot of trial and error along the way. I made mistakes that hurt me, and mistakes that hurt others infinitely more. I did stupid shit I’m not proud of, but I’m not ashamed of it, either. It’s all part of the lesson.
My obsession with the 27 club intensified leading up to and for a while after my birthday. I did a lot of reading and research about theories of why people crashed and burned as spectacularly as they did at 27. And what stood out for me, over and over again, was the Saturn Return theory.
Saturn Return basically means that Saturn, the planet, returns to the same position in the cosmos as it was when you were born. This happens every 29.4 years, but as Saturn starts approaching its return position, you start feeling its effect on you. This usually starts around the age of – dun dun dun – 27. You begin to cross over the threshold from childhood to adulthood, and man, is it traumatic!? It’s not like opening a door and stepping outside of your childhood, into a world of adulthood, where everyone welcomes you and shakes your hand, and you suddenly know what to do. (This goes back to Disney, too. I have a bone to pick with that guy!) It’s a long, hard road out of hell. But, if you’re not careful, it can also be a long hard road INTO hell.
Saturn Return is like setting your house on fire. You suddenly realise what’s really important to you, and what’s worth the risk of hanging onto or going back for, and what you can live without. And it fucking hurts, too. It’s a time of life-changing decisions and choices. There are many endings during Saturn Return, but hopefully, you learn pretty quickly that endings always mean new beginnings, too, and that’s what really counts.
I’ve learnt how to take control of my own life, and not wait for anyone else to step in and make things happen for me. I’ve learnt that I am reaping what I sowed, and to accept the consequences of my choices, and where they’ve lead me. I’ve discovered that I can define myself, and I’m figuring out day by day how to do that. I am no longer defined by my turbulent childhood, being bullied, moving around and having to start over again and again, my dad being old and ill, his death, my relationship with my husband, my job, my friends, or anything else. It’s been indescribably hard to let go of all that, because my whole life, I’d let it all speak for me, and live for me. I had let it take over who I could have been all that time. While I was hiding behind all those issues, I wasn’t figuring out who I was or who I wanted to be. I was cowering and fearful and pitiful. But I was also learning. It was all for a reason.
Now that I’ve cleared out all that clutter that I used to hide behind and pretend was me, I am discovering so many wonderful things about myself that I can truly be proud of! I am no longer ashamed of feeling good about myself, just the way I am. I am no longer worried that if I was just a little more like someone else, I would be better. Fuck that. I am me. Hear me roar! I can finally make choices I can be proud of, and that will make me happy. I am also going to make mistakes, because hey, human (mostly). But I don’t have to be ashamed of those mistakes, because they are going to make me strong and wonderful, too. But most of all, I’m learning to live with integrity. No more fear. No more lies. No more avoidance. No more distractions.*
On my chart, Saturn is 21 degrees in Scorpio. So that explains the intensity of my emotions, and the conflict I always feel between them and reality. I think my Saturn Return is teaching me to embrace the fact that I feel so intensely, instead of being embarrassed about it and always rolling my eyes. I’ve done that for so long, and look what it’s got me. But I think it’s also teaching me that I don’t have to be ruled – or defined – by my emotions. They are most certainly a big part of who I am, but they don’t have to be ALL of who I am. And another lesson I am learning is that it’s okay to make mistakes, and make an ass out of myself sometimes. I mean, I’m pretty good at it already, but I’m learning to laugh it off, instead of letting it get to me and stewing over it and reliving the embarrassment. I’ve always been able to laugh at myself on the outside, but I’m figuring out how to do it on the inside too.
Saturn Return is rough, friends, but it’s worth it, and it gives you some pretty awesome opportunities to have fun and learn at the same time. Kind of like a school outing.**
*Okay, a few distractions, in the form of hot TV boys. Everyone has their vices!
** But with more alcohol. Obviously.