Last week I found myself in a room with 100 gray, white, and balding heads. As a Millennial, I felt just a bit out of place in a sea of Baby Boomers. But at the same time I fit right in.
When I started this blog, I wrote about Saturn’s Return, the astrological theory that every 30 years or so Saturn returns to the same place in the sky as it was when you were born, bringing with it a crisis of identity and purpose. I found that a lot of late 20-somethings and early 30-somethings agreed that this stage in life was marked by some serious life reconsiderations.
But it turns out this wave of “WTF am I doing with my life??” is only the first return of Saturn. The second return of Saturn hits as a person approaches 60. Which explains why I got myself mixed up with a bunch of near-retirees.
This room full of 50, 60, and 70-somethings (plus a smattering of under 50-somethings) had one really fun thing in common. We were all there to learn how to make money as photographers, doing something we love that will give us more freedom, purpose, and meaning. We all wanted to radically change our lives.
I’ve always thought people pretty much had things figured out by the time they hit retirement. But then again I used to think 30-year olds knew what they wanted to be when they grew up because they were already grown up.
It turns out age really is just a number. Whether in the throes of Saturn’s first return or its second or even third return, you’re never too old to feel lost or clueless, to scratch your head and wonder what you’ve been doing your whole life.
When Saturn’s Return first started tugging at me around the age of 26, it was painful. I sat up late at night crying on the couch, although I didn’t know what I was crying about.
I could have ignored it, but I’m glad I listened to it. I’m glad I took action, left my safe career, and tried something new. I’m glad I failed at that something new. I’m glad I’m still listening to that tug because I feel it leading me to something incredibly amazing.
And I think if we listen to the tug of Saturn the first time around, we can maybe avoid the pain of its pull the second time.
A white-haired gent at this photography workshop told us how he had woken up one morning to the realization that he had spent 30 years in the wrong career. Thirty years is my entire lifetime. Thirty years is the time it takes Saturn to revolve around the sun.
As I flew home, the man sitting next to me on the plane struck up a conversation about the book he was reading on financial planning for the golden years. Not far from retirement himself, he was lamenting about how he had done it all wrong. If he were a younger man, say 50, he would still have time to fix things, he told me.
I hope in 30 years I’m not looking for a way out of a regrettable career choice or worrying about how I’m going to afford retirement. I hope that in 30 years I’m working at something that finally makes sense, something that won’t make me ask myself what the heck I’m really doing with my life.
At 60, I don’t want to be sitting next to a kid who was born today wondering how my life would be different if only I were younger or had made different choices.
I believe we have more control over the course of our futures than we think. Even if we’re already 60. And like the man on the plane reading that book and the wannabe photographers attending that workshop, action is our best friend. And the sooner we take it, the better.
Before we know it Saturn will be swooping back around. And where will you be when it starts to pull at you again? At a conference still looking for the answer that will bring some meaning into what is left of your life? Or 30 years into living your dream and inspiring others to do the same?
I for one plan on being in the second group. Who wants to join me?