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Saturn's Return

Saturn's Return

Believers in the Zodiac have said that I am a typical Capricorn. Capricorns have a knack for handling their shit. And for the most part, that is true for me. I rarely need rescuing... Poet and Activist Staceyann Chin muses about Saturn's unsettling impact on the 30-year mark.

I’ve been a control freak my whole life.

My brother and I were both abandoned by our parents at a young age. Our grandmother cared for us until she became too old to do so. After that we all separated. Which means, that at nine and eleven, my brother and I were each on our own. Sure, we lived with relatives who were supposed to be responsible for us, but in essence, we were our own caregivers. At first I was scared to be on my own, but necessity forced the leap from fear to self-sufficiency and soon enough, I registered that I could do things for myself. Since then, I have lived by the mantra that doing for myself is the surest way to get anything done. As a result, I wear an air of being capable, strong, and to many, unshakable and invulnerable.

Believers in the Zodiac have said that I am a typical Capricorn. Capricorns, it seems, have a knack for handling their shit. And for the most part, that is true for me. I rarely need rescuing. But I have known a lot of Arians, and Pisceans, Scorpions, etc, who do not fold under pressure. Among my closest friends, who hail from all months of the calendar, there are almost no damsels in distress -- just your regular old dykes, who can do, and do, and do for themselves, and for others -- no matter what the fuck else is going on in our lives, we keep it moving.

For decades now, I have been that way. Eleven years ago, I moved from Jamaica to New York City on my own. And when I got here I lived in a series of seedy places without complaining. I have always faced my battles with the certainty of victory, or at least the certainty of my survival. If I’m broke, I work it out. If I’m sick I take pills. If I’m horny, I whip out my trusty Hitachi magic wand and handle my own orgasm. If I was sad, I found a therapist and worked through my issues.

Then something started to change in my late twenties.

I sort of stopped being capable. A strange sort of malaise overtook me. Everything in my world seemed a little off. I stopped enjoying my work. I became dissatisfied with my lover(s). I despised the routine of my life. And the closer I got to thirty, the more things spiraled out of control. Outwardly, my career seemed as if it was going well, but inside, I felt like a big failure. My issues about God and family and sexuality -- issues I thought I had put to rest in my late teens and early twenties -- reared their heads again. This time, however, I was not just tortured, I was confused. I mean, all my ducks were lined up. Everything was going well. I was supposed to be feeling good. But all I wanted to do was crawl under my covers and go to sleep. All the certainty with which I had carried myself, all my life, drained out of me. I felt possessed.

I wondered if I was going crazy. And when I talked to my peers, they all seemed to be going a little crazy too. I read conspiracy theories about the water, about the air, the food we consumed, but no answers were forthcoming. I felt hopeless, like there was nothing to live for. I seriously considered killing myself.

My therapist told me it was normal, that many people took stock of their lives at the 30-ish mark. She encouraged me to take the time to look at myself, my choices, my life, and see how pleased or displeased I was with where I was. That diagnosis didn’t quite seem enough for me, so I started talking to my Brooklyn lesbian friends about the phenomenon. When someone pointed out that all the turmoil was natural, that it was par for the course for my Saturn Return, I was seriously annoyed with her.

Saturn Return? What the hell is that? More astrological bullshit?

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Now I can joke and chitchat and lollygag with the best of them about planets and signs and personalities and what-not at parties, but when I’m talking about depression and suicide I want to be taken seriously. I like concrete, concrete solutions to problems. Fuck the zodiac ideologies. I needed answers. And I needed them now. I sucked my teeth and scoffed at her and went home.

But the turmoil in my life continued, and the more I shared my troubles with older women, the more they smiled knowingly and said my turbulence was right on schedule. Funnily enough, every time I heard that I was not crazy, that other people/women had experienced this madness, I felt a little less crazy, a little less out of control. Soon it became a running joke in my circle. Everything could be blamed on Saturn’s Return. Joking about it, made the months turn quickly into years. And one day I looked up and I was sturdy and self-sufficient again.

I still don’t know how I survived that period of my life, but I am glad those years are behind me.

While I was going through them, I couldn’t exactly take note of what was happening, but in retrospect, I can see that those years were hard, but they were great creative years. I wrote like a motherfucker. And I worked through issues with my mother, my brother. And I made peace with the fact that I was a woman who enjoyed the love of women much more so than I did men. I also accepted that there would be a series of idiots who would always think me deviant or mentally ill for being radical and feminist and a lesbian. I stopped caring whether people loved who I was or hated who they believed me to be. It was the sheer madness of that time that forced me to look closely at my journey. After that, I had no choice but to start loving -- and I mean really loving—the creature I was becoming.

When I finally did some research, I found out that it takes Saturn exactly 29 years to complete its cycle, that is, when a person reaches 29 years old, the planet of Saturn is in the exact place it was when she was born. This hardly meant anything to me, the science major, the Doubting Thomas, the skeptic. But having survived those awful years, and watched many of my friends walk the years between 28 and 32, I have to admit that there may be some truth to the astrological claim. It may well be societal conditionings, or biological limitations (i.e. the female ticking clock) or even a Christian motif (what with Christ coming into the fullness of his purpose at that age) that causes people to assess their life’s path as they near thirty. Whatever it is, it is a truth that in this era, as we close our third decade we gaze more urgently into the mirror of our lives and become critical of the image that looks back.

Now, as I walk through the thirties, I feel a sense of accomplishment -- not necessarily financially, or even artistically, but personally. I know I can survive hard things. And I know I can survive them with grace.

My first major work, my life’s story, will be released in June of 2009. It is not a giddy tale of sustained joy. It is a candid account of what I did when I was faced with some impossible choices, a few amazing experiences, a multitude of kind strangers, and the often unintentional brutality of those entrusted with caring for me.

It is the tale of how I emerged, against the odds, with the best parts of me still in tact. The Other Side of Paradise I called it. Every cloud has a silver lining. Every hell has its heaven underneath. Be it written in the stars, or riding on Saturn’s Return, or time spent in my therapist’s chair, my life has taught me that happiness isn’t something you feel only when things are going well. Happiness is simply the weather report in side of you, the ever-present feeling that sustains you as you dance along the continuum of grief and anger and disappointment and change. It is the ability to still feel the sun’s rays caressing your face, even with the threat of the darkest skies hanging angry overhead.

For more on Staceyann Chin, visit her at Staceyann

Read Staceyann's last column here. 

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Staceyann Chin