It was my birthday on Monday – and not just any birthday.
This was my 29th birthday: the much-feared last year of the twenties, or, in popular astrological terms, the year of my Saturn Return.
What on earth is the Return of Saturn?
For starters, it’s a bangin’ 2000 album by pop-rock band No Doubt. Incidentally, I listen to a track off that album every single year on my birthday – one of my weirder rituals. The song is called Six Feet Under and the chorus goes like this:
Today is my birthday and I get one every year
And someday, hard to believe but I’ll be buried six feet underground
Yep, the lyrics are kind of morbid but the song is a fizzy, rocky new-wave track and I just love it. I suppose I get a kick out of recognising how fleeting life is, and a birthday is probably a better time than most to acknowledge that. We are only on this planet very briefly, so I try to enjoy it as much as I can.
And the No Doubt example leads me to my point, really. Lead singer and songwriter Gwen Stefani wrote most of the album during her Saturn Return in the late 90s – hence the album title.
An astrological concept, a Saturn Return describes the return of the planet Saturn to the same celestial location it was in when a person was born. This usually takes about 29.5 years, so the year between 29 and 30 is considered the year of your Saturn Return, though, as the tale goes, the planet’s influence is felt from the ages of about 27-31.
The idea is that a Saturn Return signifies a time of self-evaluation and transition into a different life stage each time it occurs. At the first Saturn Return at 29, our youth ends and we enter adulthood. At 58, we enter maturity, and for those who make it to 87, the wisdom of old age awaits.
Now, for the record, no, I do not believe in horoscopes or any of that. In fact, the below meme best illustrates my beliefs regarding astrology.
That said, there is something curious and fascinating about the concept of the Saturn Return and how people apply it psychologically as a stage of development. Maybe it’s the story aspect of it that I like. Realistically, that’s what astrology is: take away the fact that it’s not scientific, and it’s really a form of storying our own existence and attempting to divine meaning from what surrounds us.
And storying our existence is fascinating to me – hence my choice to become a fiction writer and not an astronomer (which I once wanted to do).
I’ve been thinking a lot about my Saturn Return this week: about how I have now turned 29 and how, for the last couple of years, my life has shifted me quite dramatically in the direction I want to go in.
You see, despite always knowing I wanted to be a writer (since I was seven), I knew from a young age that this was not going to be an easy path.
Despite my desire to be a published author, there have been many times when I was faced with some negative attitudes, or, more often, when I panicked and didn’t back myself.
At 17, I chose a science degree as my top preference because I didn’t think I would be taken seriously if I studied writing. Thankfully, my mother advised me to do what I really wanted to do, whatever that was. I reflected, and changed my course preference to a Bachelor of Arts. Writing was all I wanted.
At 18, a lot of people – including a lot of so-called friends – looked down on me for pursuing my dream and studying writing. They saw writing as a low form of career, unlike law, engineering, medicine, business, or science. Some of them – several times – implied to my face that I was dumb, which was really quite silly as I’d won several academic awards for being among the brightest in the state and they were all B students. Maybe it was part jealousy. I don’t know for sure. Thankfully, social pressure has never affected me as much as my own fears. These attitudes galvanised me to keep going, because I saw these people as joyless and nasty and quite pitiable for shitting on the life of someone who dared to dream – and I never wanted to give up on dreaming and become one of them.
At 19, I wanted to drop out of uni after my first year because I didn’t feel like I fit in, and also because I was depressed. I decided to become a labourer and move back to Geraldton and just write in my spare time (ha! as if!). Thankfully, after three months labouring over the summer, I had an idea for a story and went back to uni to write it (it became “A Man”, which was published when I was 20).
At 21, I lost all confidence in myself when I graduated from uni, because I didn’t think I would be able to find a steady job as an Arts grad. I panicked and got a job in a bank for a year.
At 22, I quit the bank and did my Honours in creative writing, but then at 24, I finished my thesis and freaked out again, and went to work full time for two years in a senior admin role.
While I’ve never stopped believing in my dream, fear has sometimes made me jam the brakes on for a year or two at a time. At those shaky times, I’ve been so scared of failing at being a writer that I never really gave it a proper go.
It wasn’t until the year I turned 26 that I had an epic “I don’t give a fuck” moment – and I came out of that year losing a lot of illusions.
I decided to give up financial security, academic validation and societal approval.
I decided to just do the thing I was put on this planet for: be a writer, and do it as well as I possibly could.
So, at 27 – the age the influence of Saturn is supposed to begin – things began to pick up pace in my writing career: I got another publication, and a grant, and a mentorship.
When I was 28, the part-time job I had was taken away from me through a workplace restructure. It was a horrible time – months of anxiety and stress and uncertainty – but this time, unlike basically every time before that, I didn’t freak out.
At least, I didn’t freak out in the same way, because this time I didn’t give up on my writing.
Rather, I saw the loss of my job as a good omen: that it was time for me to put even more of my time and energy into my writing.
And so, I did.
I finally put my work out into the world, and I’ve been stoked with the response from the public.
Now at 29, I am investing more and more of my time, energy and even my own (scraps) of money into my writing career.
I have finally learned to back myself: I have said no to several day jobs in the past year, because I don’t want to lose sight of achieving my writing goals.
I have finally learned to structure my week to ensure I actually have hours put aside for both writing admin (marketing, website maintenance, editing, publishing, blogging) and writing creation (actually putting the arse in the chair and writing words).
Most importantly, I have finally learned how to operate my writing career with a foot on the accelerator – something I have never mastered previously. It is an exhilarating feeling to actually be a working writer.
Saturn’s return is supposed to push us into the role we are supposed to occupy in our adult lives: in my case, this means becoming a career author.
I enjoyed my youth, but for all its exuberance, it also came with a cacophony of fear and self-doubt that, at 29, I feel I have pushed through.
And it’s going to get better and more exciting from here. Not because a planet is hurtling into the same spot it was at back in 1988, but because I’m going to take action and make it better.
I know. I’m kind of intense.
But I don’t care anymore.
I won’t stop until my ambition is a reality – and nothing can deter me from this path.
Onwards and upwards.