Essays, Lost in the World, Photographs

Returns

Every 27 to 29 years or so, the planet Saturn will have made a complete revolution around the Sun, placing it in the same position that it was in when you were born. This is called Saturn Return — a tumultuous time in your life when you start to get existential crises, when major upheavals begin happening all at once, disrupting the life you were already living, that you thought you were happy with. It will make you doubt yourself. It will force you to reassess every single choice you’ve ever made over the years, everything that’s turned you into the person you are today, and make you wonder if you might have gone wrong somewhere.

Saturn Return will put you through mental and emotional hell, and after this approximately three-year period, there are two ways you can come out of it.

The first possibility is that soldiering through so many trials will cement your current path, whatever that path is. Making it through the struggle is what proves to you beyond the shadow of a doubt that this is who you are, this is what you want to do, this is your life. And this certainty, this clarity, this comfort, you fought hard for it, and it’s what will light the fire in you that will keep you going. You were right all along, so you can throw yourself completely into your life, confident in that knowledge.

Lucky you.

Because in contrast, the second possibility is that all of the questioning and self-doubt will bring you to the realization that you don’t want the life you’re living anymore. The person you are now isn’t the person you want to be — it’s the person you thought you wanted to be. The dreams you used to dream aren’t the same any longer. And this is understandably terrifying because you’ve spent the better part of your youth working towards becoming who you are, only to discover that it doesn’t feel right, and you don’t know what does.

All you know for sure is that you need a change. You’re on the brink of 30, and instead of finding security like you thought you would, everything has fallen apart. Suddenly you have to figure out who you’re supposed to be. And then you have to put that person together somehow.

That is where I have been for the better part of a year, and it’s where I still am now: in my late twenties and very, very lost. My Saturn Return hit me so hard that I quit my life as it was. I left my job as an editor, decided to abandon my career in publishing — my dream since I first learned I could string a sentence together — because something about it didn’t feel right to me anymore. In fact, it felt so wrong that despite being the girl with an exit strategy for everything, I left without a safety net to catch me, with no idea what I would do next or do for a living. I just quit, and it was the scariest choice I have ever made because my only skill is writing, a skill so undervalued that only other writers understand how frustrating and difficult it actually is. (Someone I was introduced to at a club once asked me what I did. “I’m a writer,” I replied. “What else do you do?” was his follow up question, because apparently writing isn’t enough.)

The fear and uncertainty about myself, my life, and my future (and the disappointment I felt because I thought I had failed) sank me into the darkest depression of my life, a life already constantly plagued by it. For the first time, I sought professional help. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made, because my doctor opened my eyes to some very important things.

First, that my case was clinical. The diagnosis lifted a weight off my shoulders, assuaged the guilt that I always felt about something that I finally learned was never entirely in my control after all. Knowing about it also let me know that it could be beaten.

Second, that it is so important to live in the present. To be here now, to be mindful. How many of us can never pull ourselves out of the past? How many of us are forever continuing to hurt ourselves by dwelling on things that can no longer be changed? And on the other side of the coin, how many of us are so obsessed with the future, worrying constantly about where we’ll be five, ten, twenty years from now? How many of us are driving ourselves to madness over things that haven’t happened yet, and may never even happen at all? The future is subject to change with every decision we make, and can be affected by external stimuli beyond our control. It’s never certain.

All we have is today. This moment is the only moment you can be sure about, and it’s this moment that leads to the next, and the next. Right now is what is building the future, so right here, right now is the most important place to be. I forgot that.

Third, that you don’t need to have yourself figured out all at once. Take baby steps, go slowly, because trying too hard to do too much too fast puts so much unnecessary pressure on you. It’s okay to be in flux; it’s not something to be afraid of. Life is a series of transitions. Life is about constantly evolving, growing. If you’re static, you’re not truly living.

And so I am rebuilding myself from the bottom up. As hard as it has been, Saturn Return is gradually helping me figure out, bit by bit, who I am supposed to be and what I am meant to be doing. The uncertainty can be unsettling, and I may be very, very lost, but I am coming to find that being lost is not necessarily a bad thing. Because more often than not, being lost helps you discover things about yourself that you might never have known otherwise.

Saturn Return gives you no choice but to change, to try new things, to face your fears. And at the end of it all, Saturn Return, as difficult as it might be for some, will do the same thing for everyone in the end: It will return us to ourselves. It’s a rebirth that will make us who we really are.

So here I am. Lost in the world — and a world can be many things, mind you —finding more and more of myself as I explore it, and putting myself back together in a way that feels right. Having the adventure of my life. Having the adventure that is my life. Every single day.

(Photographs: Joseph Pascual)

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5 thoughts on “Returns

  1. Wanda says:

    Wow! Reading your beautiful writing made me feel that I’m not alone in this journey. I felt like I’ve found a friend! Thanks Regina for writing this. 💋

    Like

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