Saturn is the school principal of the cosmos. Very few people like a trip to school principal’s office. I didn’t when I was in high school and I liked it even less as I ushered in the big 30.
Two months before my Saturn Return, I found myself in Japan. If Saturn were a country, it would be Japan. Hands down. No contest. I honestly can’t think of anyplace more Saturnian than Japan. The austerity. The reverence for tradition. The ageing population. The precision. The discipline. The routines. The rituals. The resistance to change. The aversion to taking risks. The way people dedicate themselves to art of perfection.
I started my Saturn Return with a deep and profound sense of regret about how I had lived my twenties. I felt I had failed miserably at both my relationship and in my career – the two areas of our lives where many of us derive a fair bit of our self-esteem. I blamed myself for the way that things had turned out. A part of me wished I had chosen the conventional route and lived that linear life. It would have been easier. Safer. I wouldn’t have had to sit there and deal with the shock of watching everything and everyone I’d invested in come crashing down.
My Early Twenties
Instead of following the conventional route after I finished university – I decided that I would be much better off pursuing my dreams. For as far back as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. Whilst my fellow university mates were trying to figure out what they wanted to do with their lives; I already knew. I wanted to write books. So that’s what I did.
I can’t say I received much support with this endeavour. Most people around me thought I was crazy and wasting my life. I’d ‘done well’ at school and many of my friends, acquaintances and family were pressuring me to get a ‘real job’ and follow convention.
But when you feel a calling – a burning desire – to follow a certain path; no one and nothing can deter you from it. I believed in myself. I don’t think anyone else did. Everyone thought I was a naive little girl who had no idea what I was doing and thought that everything was going to magically work out.
I was going through my Jupiter Return at the time. It may have led me to see the world with rose-tinted glasses. I had faith. I had an idea. I had passion. For some strange reason, I thought that that was all you needed. Jupiter’s influence can do that to you.
So I started with a blank page and began writing. It was all new to me and I had no one to guide me. My own lack of experience with writing books didn’t help either. There was a lot to learn. There was a lot to write. And there was a lot to edit. Good writing is really just editing.
So I tried. I worked hard. I spent hours and hours at the library trying to figure it all out. I finished two autobiographical type manuscripts before I finally wrote my first work of fantasy. Like a mother, I was proud of my first novel – of my first baby.
When it was ready, I sent it out into the world. I queried agents in London and the US. This was around the time that Amazon was revolutionising the book industry with its Kindle and the e-book. Brick and mortar book stores were closing down. Literary agencies were too inundated and resisting change. My baby – my first novel – received praise from some literary agents. They said it was original and innovative. But my book was ultimately rejected time and time again.
It was painful. It hurt.
No one said it to me explicitly – but I’m female and not white. Most fantasy readers are white males so… You can fill in the blanks.
And that’s when the doubt started creeping in. I heard the voices of all those who’d told me to do the practical thing and settle into a cookie cutter life. Somewhere I started to feel I really should have done that. I felt my first profound pangs of regret.
In life, it’s hard to fail. It’s even harder to fail at something you really love and care about.
The Saturn Return
Two months before my first Saturn Return, I got a ‘regular’ job in Japan and moved out here.
On December 23, 2014, Saturn entered Sagittarius. A few days later, I had a nasty breakup. Saturn has a way of doing that – of breaking things that are not built on a solid foundation. I felt like I’d invested a lot of time and energy in someone who really just wasn’t worth it. Three years on, I still feel the same way. These days, that whole relationship feels like dust in the wind – but at the time, I (wrongly) thought my whole world had fallen apart.
So I started 2015 newly single and working at a job I absolutely hated. I had officially joined the rat race. I had decent colleagues, but my bosses were crazy. And of all the places in the Japan – I found myself in Oita – a small city in the countryside where there are very few foreigners. Unlike Tokyo – which is becoming a cosmopolitan city – Oita was like taking a trip back in time to the 1950s. And I didn’t like it.
Outdated gender roles meant that I often dealt with women who were ‘soap opera nasty’ and men who expected me to kowtow to them just because of their gender. It’s also commonplace for married men to have affairs and many salarymen would proposition me on the train home at night.
Not interested. No thank you.
In the course of my work, I often had to stay in many hotels in the middle of nowhere – sometimes for weeks at a time. I had no social or personal life. The company I worked for would overwork me and underpay me. Japan’s lax labour laws came as a shock to the system.
My (unofficial) working hours were ridiculously long, so I would roll into the hotel at 11pm absolutely exhausted. All the restaurants were closed by that time so I would often eat Nissan cup noodles for dinner and go to bed feeling sorry for myself. Many business hotels are catered towards the Japanese businessman – not the foreign woman – so the only ‘comforts’ I had were porn, beer and cigarettes.
Not interested. No, thank you.
The world felt like a cold and desolate place. There were many nights I thought back – I wondered about that girl – the one I used to be. The one who had that dream to be a writer. She was so full of hope. So full of promise. I felt like someone had thrown a blanket over all that was good and beautiful about life. Gone were the exuberance of my 20s. I became depressed.
With each day that passed, I felt like an empty vessel just going through the motions. I made money, paid my rent and the bills. Close friends and family told me they were proud of me – that I’d finally gotten my act together and had stopped ‘drifting’. I won’t lie – a part of me was relieved that I didn’t have to say, ‘Hi, I’m a fantasy writer’ and have people stare at me like I was a lost case with no hope.
Astrologers say that Saturn can bring depression and isolation. I never understood the full extent of this until I moved here. There is an uncrossable boundary; an unbreakable barrier that exists between Japanese and non-Japanese. Whilst incidences of open racism are rare – the practise of excluding and isolating anything and anyone that’s ‘different’ is commonplace. People have a way of both staring at you and acting like you don’t exist. The whole concept still baffles me.
Oddly enough, the people who did extend a genuine hand of friendship towards me were old enough to be my parents. My family wasn’t really there for me when I was growing up; and suddenly I had more mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers than I could possibly imagine. And they were all fussing over me like I was their kid. It felt odd – getting doted on, being cared for, and just having someone to guide you. I enjoyed an abundance of paternal love for the first time in my life.
In astrology, Saturn represents old people and fear. Like most people – I was terrified of getting old – wrinkles, bad health, my ovaries drying up etc etc. But in Japan, I understood that old age is nothing to fear. It is the natural process of life – getting older, slowing down, maturing and not being all over the damn place. And many elderly people in Japan are in tiptop shape. They’re climbing mountains, having second careers, and pursuing their hobbies.
So for the next three years, I kept my head down, worked a lot and slept very little. I matured and became very responsible. I tapped into the experience and wisdom of my elders. I often worked two to three weeks in a row without a day off. My bosses were pleased with me and my work. At some point, I even started to enjoy the job. It’s comforting – working hard, achieving goals and having some semblance of stability.
In doing the same thing day in and day out and working ridiculously hard, I transformed from a shy heartbroken girl to a confident woman. Before I knew it, people up in the hierarchy noticed my hard work and told me I had skills I didn’t even realise I had.
I might have failed miserably at publishing my first book – but suddenly, I was centre stage. I was talking in front of people all over Japan. I often found myself in front of the camera giving interviews, being photographed and teaching to a live audience. I even learnt how to manage and lead large groups of people.
My Saturn Return taught me to take responsibility for myself and those around me. I learnt that there is a certain dignity that comes from fulfilling your duty and honouring life on the physical plane. I started to feel secure in myself. Unlike my Jupiter Return – I now felt a sense of security based on surviving tough experiences and real world achievement – not passion and faith.
But still – there remained an indescribable emptiness at the heart of everything I was doing. I couldn’t forget that girl – the one that wanted to be a writer.
So two months ago – I started writing my second fantasy novel. I’m a Pisces after all – my sign is co-ruled by Jupiter. I cannot change who I am deep down; because I still haven’t changed deep down. I still want to write fantasy. I still want to publish my work someday.
On December 20, Saturn will leave Sagittarius and enter Capricorn. I’ve never celebrated an astrological transit before – but I’m definitely celebrating that one. I can’t honestly say I ‘enjoyed’ my Saturn Return – but I will say that it gave me something I never had before – a solid and sturdy foundation.
I don’t know what the next 30 years will bring or what will come to pass once my Saturn enters Capricorn – but one thing I do know is that life is an incredible adventure and I have every intention of enjoying it – come what may.