28 before 29, #5: Rachel S.

Rachel is a good friend of my cousins Nikki and Dave. We met a few years ago and I swiftly developed a friend/professional crush on her because she was doing such cool work coordinating a documentary series called How Democracy Works Now. But we only crossed paths in person a few times and then she moved to LA and now here I am in Chicago and youknowhowitgoes.

So I was surprised and stoked when she expressed interest in this project when I posted it to Facebook. And then I was even more surprised—and energized and heartwarmed (actual verb)—when she sent me the following answers.

rachel sisters
Julia: Does the term “Saturn returns” mean anything to you?

Rachel: Yes it does! I first heard it when I was 25 or 26, some time in the first year that I lived in New York. A childhood friend of mine tended bar at Dempsey’s in the East Village, and it was a sort of weeknight gathering spot for most of the people I knew in New York then. Another bartender there was a few years older than us and really into astrology. She was always warning that in just a few years life was really going to suck, because Saturn was coming back to get us.

Everyone who was in their 30s would nod like, yeah, Saturn is coming for ya, it’s gonna suck, there’s nothing you can do. I would just sort of shrug, because what can you say to that!?

J: Where were you when you turned 28?

R: I was dancing on a table at the old Bulgarian bar on Broadway & Canal with my twin sister and all our buddies. It was such a fun birthday party! Back then Gogol Bordello was sort of the house band (kinda? They were there a lot) and there was sometimes a whirling dervish. And you could smoke inside and dance on the tables. It was so boss!

J: What are one or two or several things you remember from the year or so surrounding that birthday?

R: I remember feeling: thank god 27 is over! 27 was terrible, let the smooth sailing begin! I thought that since our birthday is the 28th (of November), being 28 would obviously be awesome, and we probably got an early dose of Saturn Returns and were now in the clear. Fall 2004 felt like a weird time in a lot of ways… on a macro level the Red Sox had won the world series (amazing!), Bush was re-elected (inconceivable & infuriating!), and on a micro level I was dealing with some major anxiety and insomnia after witnessing a murder. I was so happy to have a birthday because sometimes a socially constructed turning point can be just what the doctor ordered, you know?

The positive-turning-point feeling continued as I moved to a new apartment in a new borough, but then in January my mom up and left my dad—on their 35th wedding anniversary!! It was MAYHEM. It was a complete shock to everyone except my mom, since they had been married for so, so long. They didn’t exactly have the romance of the century, but nobody saw a break up coming.

My older sister was in the middle of planning a Wedding (with a capital W), and had always been very close to our mom; she was especially devastated by the timing. We really circled the wagons—my sisters and brothers-in-law and I—and that closeness and how intensely we needed and supported each other is what I remember most vividly about that time. As far as divorce stories go there is nothing all that unusual about this one, but 7 years have passed and we are all still pretty unmoored by it. It definitely was one of the harder transitions of my life, so… Score 1 for Saturn!

J: What was happening in the world that year? Do you remember newsworthy events, books you read, movies or shows or art you experiences?

R: Well, Red Sox Oh my god!!!! Amazing! But then there was the Tsunami and Bush’s second term got off to such a crazy start what with trying to privatize Social Security, then Terry Schiavo, then the Pope died, then the London bombings, and Hurricane Katrina, two new Supreme Court Justices (and Harriet Miers, remember her?), Tom DeLay was indicted, then there was the transit workers strike in New York… It was a crazy year!

In terms of books and movies… well I remember that I saw I Heart Huckabees on my birthday afternoon and really loved it. Brokeback Mountain came out that year I think? The Colbert Report started and I went: SWOON! I read Kafka On The Shore when I shouldn’t have, I felt sad and edgy for weeks afterwards.

J: Do you feel close to those memories, or far from them? 

R: I would have to say both, but I guess I would have to say that about most memories. My life now is so different from my life before that year, but it’s also very different from my life six months ago. But then here are all my same buddies and family and love, even though we are in different places and situations.

Four months ago my daughter Naomi was born, so the process of making a family and thinking a lot about parenting has certainly brought up feelings about my mom, and feelings about my parents’ marriage and divorce which make those memories feel sharper than they have in a very long time. If you’d asked me last August I think I would have said they feel like a billion years ago.

J: Do you have any advice for someone going through this (supposedly) astrologically tumultuous time? 

R: Whatever you make of astrology, it is a time in life when people tend to go through transitions and evaluate their lives, and that’s a great opportunity! Outside of graduations, moving days, marriages, births, and deaths we don’t have many transitions that we can point to and say: now life changes. I think this is something to really embrace, especially if you want to make changes in some aspect of your life.

That point in life was tricky for a lot of people I know because they’d been “adult” long enough to know that many things were not going like they expected, and as 30 approached they got more and more agita thinking about what they felt life “should” be like (ie. they thought they should be published by now, should be married by now, should own an apartment, whatever marker they made for themselves at 15 or 21 or whenever).

This is nothing but trouble. No good can come from this line of thinking!

So forget about what should or should not be. This is the time to sack up and be who you are, or rue the day that Saturn came for you and you decided to be someone else. Saturn returns with major growing pains, so try to go easy on yourself and your friends if/when who you are and what you want is not what you had in mind at 10 or 15 or 22.

Oh my word speaking of growing pains I can’t believe that I forgot the most amazing thing about being 28… I grew almost an inch taller! It was incredible! All of a sudden I was even taller than my twin! There are not enough exclamation points in the world for me to accurately convey how exciting this was and still is to me. My doctor said that this happens to about 25% of women in their late twenties. So hey, that was one fantastic and unexpected change.

Also, well, life is full of tumultuous stretches, and for me when I’m on the other side of them I say “Phew! Glad that’s over!” But while I’m going through it I never think “Gah, tumult!” Maybe I should? I dunno, just roll with it! Like right now, I have a tiny baby. She is awesome! Life with her is awesome! But then sometimes I also cry on the floor in the bathroom, because it’s exhausting and hormones and blahblahblah all the things which are true about life with tiny babies. This is very tumultuous, but also wonderful, so here we are again.

J: Do you have other suggestions about what I should ask? Anything else you’d like to share?

Not sure about other questions… but I would like to share that when you feel like Saturn is getting you down, this song can help.

Merci beaucoup, Rachel! Who else would recount such a tricky time in her life for a near-stranger? (Well, actually, for the sake of this project, I hope Saya and Rachel are just the first two of several.) Here’s hoping we cross paths again in person soon.

Photo: Rachel provided this picture of herself (on the right) with her two sisters in 2004.  

Previous “28 in 29″ posts: Intro; Hannah, #1Kara, #2; Saya, #3; Cathy (aka Mom), #4

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