30: The Point of No Return
by Ophira Edut


Turning 30 was a cosmic event for me—literally. It happened a couple of months ago, and it’s definitely a small head-trip. But as an astrology freak, I feel less affected by the numerical change than by what stargazers call the Saturn Return.

For those of you not crunching on a bowl of granola right now, allow me to explain: Saturn is the planet of discipline, challenges, and tough lessons. It moves into a new sign every 2 to 3 years, which means it takes about 27 to 29 years to clock the whole zodiac. Thus, a couple of years before you hit the big three-o, Saturn “returns” to the sign it was in when you were born. Its arrival cuts the party short, and tosses Survivor-style challenges in your path, designed to make you stronger and prepare you for true adulthood.

As you wrap up your 20s, Saturn can make you feel like you’re living with a personal trainer, a parole officer, and a guidance counselor in one. (And you thought high school was bad.) During a Saturn return, things that were once a breeze become difficult. You might feel more ambitious, serious, or committed to a cause or person. You could be forced into circumstances that make you mature faster than planned. And, if you avoid dealing with your issues as they come up, you might even get a little depressed. Saturn knows if you’ve been bad or good; it knows where you’ve been slacking and fence-sitting, and it brings you opportunities to toughen up, so you can break through that lump of coal it dropped in your stocking and find the diamond.
But Saturn is not just a cruel mistress. Instead, it’s more like that tough teacher who makes you repeat a lesson until you truly learn it. You hated that instructor at the time, but later you remember her fondly.

I can’t deny that I’ve ended my twenties with a mellower attitude and a stronger sense of what I want. On my personal astro-chart, Saturn is in my partnership house, so my late-20s lessons were handed to me in that package. Right at the kickoff of my Saturn return, my employment contract with a struggling Internet company fell apart, and I left a cushy executive position. On the heels of that, my halfhearted romantic relationship finally ended for good, spinning my love life into Saturn's orbit. I tried Internet dating, international vacation flings, and a challenging relationship with an Israeli mover that gave me some issue-resolving insight about my Israeli-immigrant dad. In hindsight, the whole stretch prepared my commitment-phobic ass for the stable, healthy relationship I'm in now.

Professionally, a number of other partnerships fell through, each one teaching me to tighten up my presentation. Looking back, I was sometimes sloppy on the details, or overwhelmed by the idea of lawyers and agents and other stuff foreign to my semi-professional experience. When my book publisher was months late on royalty payments, I was forced to fight for my money if I wanted groceries. Unleashing a lawyer on a near-bankrupt feminist press was one of the most uncomfortable experiences I've had. It also taught me not to play nice at my own expense. I kicked, screamed and cried my way through many parts of my Saturn return, but I wouldn't trade those lessons for the world.

Two and a half years later, I live with a great boyfriend, which I wasn’t ready for until I hit 29 and a half. I’ve become a lot less self-righteous in my feminist politics—it was easier to criticize women for being image-obsessed before I spotted wrinkles around my own eyes. Responsibility feels more like a privilege than a trap, and I read contracts with almost as much interest as I read People magazine. And although I’m still hitting the snooze button on my biological clock, I’ve mostly traded the club and bed-hopping scene for evenings of great conversation and dinner with a few close friends.

Whether that’s due to ethereal astrology or cold-hard maturity, I can’t say for sure. It’s not like I can scientifically prove this stuff. Nonetheless, I’m glad I’ve had Saturn’s ring around my collar—even if the grip was tight.

(appeared in Spring 2003 issue of Bust)