Each time Saturn in the sky hits a degree of the zodiac that resonates with your birth chart, you become dissatisfied with the shape of your life. It seems to need something—perhaps a new layer, or a different frosting. How you respond to this dissatisfaction, this challenge, highly depends on how you were taught to respond. Are you fearful, resistant, angry, or excited to get to work?
THE SATURN RETURN Ages 29, 58, 87
The Saturn return occurs when this planet symbolizing maturity, responsibility, career, and limitations comes back to its position in your birth chart. This huge event—which happens only every twenty-nine years—is a time to stand back and take a cold, hard look at your life. Are you happy with your career? Do you have a sense that life is moving in the right direction? Do you feel like a grown-up? When Saturn returns to its natal position, you become uncomfortably aware that you are mortal. Life has an expiration date. A panic sets in. Is it too late to do the things you want to do?
At the initial Saturn return, you realize for the first time that it is already too late for some things. “Olympic gymnast” or “child prodigy” are roads that are firmly closed to you. But really, the first Saturn return is a wake-up call that comes just as you’re entering your prime—when it’s still early enough in the game to change course, even if you do have to adjust some of your expectations.
At the second Saturn return, around the age of fifty-eight or fifty-nine, begins the transition into what is traditionally considered “retirement.” This doesn’t mean that no work will be done; it doesn’t take long to turn up examples of exalted figures who produced their finest work later in life. What it does mean is that your most important role becomes that of teacher, of tribal elder. In modern America, unlike in other cultures that revere elders as keepers of wisdom, this role is not well defined and is even less respected.
You must find a way to make the transition to elder a graceful and meaningful one. It’s tempting at midlife to feel sad about what we haven’t accomplished, and hard to accept that we may never reach the heights of our profession. But none of us reaches our fifties without having learned an enormous amount. The key to a happy second half of life is a balance between learning new things and sharing what we’ve already mastered. And so the whole concept of career becomes much different in your midfifties than it was ten years earlier. The focus is less toward striving and more toward sharing.
THE OPENING SATURN SQUARE Ages 7, 35, 63, 91
These are the ages of reason, when awareness of responsibility, maturity, and mortality comes into clearer focus, catalyzed by some external event. Life pushes you, and you have to push back, hard, to open the door to the next chapter. Achieving something in particular is not the point; simply making a serious effort to move forward is enough to satisfy Saturn.
THE SATURN OPPOSITION Ages 14, 42, 70, 98
All is clear; at the top of the mountain, you can see for a hundred miles. When transiting Saturn is opposed your natal Saturn position, you have come to the halfway point in the cycle of maturity. You can see where you started out, and in the distance you can pinpoint where you will end up if you continue along your path. This is the moment to weigh your options: Is it time to correct your course?
THE CLOSING SATURN SQUARE Ages 21, 50, 78
The first closing Saturn square at age twenty-one dovetails with the first transiting Uranus square, so this is an age marked by tremendous tension between fitting into society and the urge to rebel against everything you’ve known. The second closing Saturn square at age fifty can bring a pinnacle of career achievement if you’ve been working hard toward a particular goal, but of course you’re also beginning to feel your age. At the third Saturn square, you can review your career, consider your legacy, and mentor others to continue your work.