WTF is Saturn Return? (It’s More than a No Doubt Album)

I was too young to understand what Gwen Stefani meant when she named that No Doubt album Return of Saturn, instead consumed with worry about what would happen if I got gum stuck in my braces and perfecting my cursive handwriting in diary entries about boys named Tyler. (Remind me to ceremoniously burn those journals before I die; wouldn’t want to burden a grandchild with those.)

What I did know is that “Magic’s in the Makeup” was my jam and that Saturn Return – whatever that means – was going to hurt real bad someday. That someday is here.

Got the itch? Are you between ages 27 and 30? That’s your Saturn Return. So what the hell is Saturn returning to and why does a planet 746 million miles away have the right to rattle us? Turns out Gwen was feeling angst for good reason: during this two-and-a-half-year period you’ll question all aspects of your life and emerge from a kid-playing-adult into an adult-adult. Casual, huh? In Gwen’s case, she was depressed, confused and reading a lot of Sylvia Plath. Makes sense to me.

With this, we say good riddance, youth! You were a burden with your flexibility and ability to recover from hangovers and robust collagen level anyway. Adulthood, let’s do this.

WTF is Saturn Return?
As my go-to Astrostyle gals call it, it’s a “cosmic rite of passage.” Return of Saturn, or Saturn Return, whatever the hell you want to call it, is the astrological period of your life when Saturn, um, returns to the sign it was in on the glorious day you were born. (April 25th for me, don’t you ever forget it.) Saturn takes approximately 29.5 years to complete an orbit around the sun, so you often first feel these vibes between the ages of 27 and 30, depending on Saturn’s degree in your chart.

“A bit of a cosmic bar mitzvah, quinceanera or communion, if you will,” say the Astrostyle twins.

Welcome to the more mature you. Adulthood has been calling for a long time, but now you’re ready for it.

Ugh, am I going through it?!
When you enter it varies between the ages of 27 and 30; I’m inches away from turning 30 and just recently entered mine. Find out when you’ll enter your Saturn Return here.

Late last December, Saturn moved from Sagittarius into Capricorn, where it’ll make itself home until 2020. So, say, you were born the last time Saturn was in Capricorn – from February 1988 to February of 1991 – congratulations/sorry, you’ve just entered your Saturn Return.

Should you put in an offer on that Craftsman that’s been calling your name? Take out your IUD and try for a baby? At the very least, finally stop eating cold pizza standing up at your sink and calling it dinner? Drop the bad-for-you boyfriend? Fold your laundry right after you take it out of the dryer?

What’s up with Saturn? Why is it such a big deal?
Astrologer Alan Oken calls Saturn “Lord of Karma,” so don’t mess with it. Stern Saturn is a bit of a tough love type of life coach, breaking you down to build you up again. No wonder Saturn rules Capricorn, the overachieving CEO-type of the zodiac.

Saturn isn’t the sexiest of planets. Whereas Venus, the planet of beauty, rules love and money, and Jupiter is the intellectual planet, ruling ideology, Saturn is the responsible, career-driven one. It concerns itself with legacy: What will you leave behind? What will you achieve in your lifetime? Quit it with all the hard questions, Saturn!

Return of Saturn, The Sequel
Don’t worry, if you didn’t get enough of the unsettling feeling of your first Saturn Return, you’ll get to endure it again in your late 50s, when Saturn loops back around through another journey of the 12 signs. Just in time to buy a motorcycle, pick up a hot young boyfriend and pass it off as a midlife crisis.

Jump forward a few decades, and perhaps if you pray to the stars, you’ll pass through another Saturn Return, this time in your mid-to-late-80s, crossing over into true old age wisdom.

Okay, fine. I’m in my Saturn Return. How do I get through this with my chin up?

  • Let go or be dragged. From the job that doesn’t appreciate you, the stagnant relationship, that flaky friend, your sugar addiction, whatever.
  • Revise your expectations. Maybe you assumed you’d be married with 2.5 kids by this age, but now you’re almost 30 and only have 2.5 plants because you’re keeping those fingers crossed that your jade plant will come back to life. It’s a different world now than it was when you were cheating at MASH so you’d get to live in a mansion. Be gentle with yourself. Move at your own pace.
  • See the world. Need I blab my mouth again that you gain perspective, empathy and life-long stories from traveling? Perhaps it’s the perfect time to travel alone or grab a girlfriend and just go. Big Sur is magic and Amsterdam is utterly charming and a beach never hurt no one.
  • Treat yourself to solo creative dates. You’re the best date there is.
  • Eliminate the small hassles. Life is hard enough; you don’t need to be losing your wallet and over-apologizing too.
  • Set yourself up for success. Contribute to your retirement fund. Find a workout that you enjoy. (Or at least don’t hate.) Start your mornings slow. Skip the last round of drinks, delete his number and call your mom. You know what’s good for you. 

And if nothing else works, give that No Doubt record a spin.

Illustrations by Maria Clara Eimmart

Megan McCarty is a writer, editor, etc.-er who has written about life, travel and – shh, don’t tell her mother – s-e-x for Garance Doré, Apartment 34, Rue and more. She’s a firm believer in the zipper merge. Follow along with her adventures (and, well, misadventures) on Instagram



  • Wow this is somewhat trippy for me. Born January 15, 1991…so both a Capricorn and part of the group this applies to. When I’m being a grown-up, I’m 100% Capricorn – structured, disciplined, loyal, driven, basically unstoppable, but also very sensitive. I’ve felt a STRONG urge to get rid of the bad habits and relationships that pulled me in the opposite direction since about my birthday this year, and thought I was just finally maturing on my own and shedding unnecessary weight. Now I understand this pull and see how useful it can be if you let it. Love!

  • Oooh, I turn 30 in less than a week. I’m excited about this new chapter of my life. I think this explains my recent attitude towards my new goals and etc. I’ve never heard of Saturn Return, but I really enjoyed reading about it! Thank you.