Makanaka Tuwe on things falling apart and Saturn making sure they do – changed friendships, new lovers and tower card energy.
I’m terrible at making new friends and I’m finding this is not necessarily a good thing for someone about to enter their 30s. I find the over-familiarity and false sense of knowing each other that social media gives strangers overwhelming and quite jarring.
I see friendship as a container of sacred space that is cultivated and nurtured over time. And while there have been people I’ve instantly connected with, the older I get the more I find myself needing time and space to engage intentionally, before arriving at a certain point of friendship. I can’t define or explain the point I speak of, but for me it’s this embodied sense of home, familiarity and deep trust.
I also find the dynamics of love bombing during certain interactions, and then silence when the extraction is over, leechy and boring, although the social climbing of it is rather amusing. People become steps on someone else's ladder or the mat they wipe their feet on to remove the muck before taking another step. People name-drop people they have only briefly interacted with. The blurred lines between friend, kin, acquaintance, colleague, community, someone I know and someone I know of can be confusing and can lead to exploitative relationships that reflect the values of a capitalistic and individualistic society.
you need real ones that can last longer than the latest club hit
As I prepared for my last hoorah in my 20s, I found myself scrolling through previous birthday shindig invitations and cringing. People that never showed up because they had literally never interacted with me outside of projects. I giggle at my openness, my desire to be everybody’s friend and my desperation to belong. This releases expectations I felt others had of me, the projections and pressure to show up and be a certain way. It also releases the expectations I had of others. Sometimes people I had just met or barely knew were now, unbeknownst to them, playing a role I had assigned without their consent, without truly getting to know them.
I note the friends that fell off the invitation lists and those recently added. This tickled a wound I’ve been tending to, of friendship break-ups and the prickly tenderness of changes in important relationships. Those motherfuckers are the hardest to heal and reconcile with. Yet we are likely to be better equipped to handle changes and endings in romantic relationships. I guess we never think that the friendships that anchor us through the bs can come to an end.
I guess we never think that the friendships that anchor us through the bs can come to an end.
Sometimes relationships ended because shit got too heavy. Sometimes they ended because I didn’t have the language to speak to the things that I was going through, so it felt easier to ghost and be ghosted. Sometimes something just didn’t feel right anymore, and other times things ended because I shouldn’t have been friends with those bitches in the first place. Most of the time, it was because it was time to move on. I mean, who still hangs out with the gals they grinded with on that filthy pole at Globe on student night?
In my earlier years it felt easier letting people slip through my fingers while I skipped forward. I ran through friendships and friend groups, collecting and discarding. Moving through, in and under people with a certain sense of non-attachment that I attributed to being a daughter of migrants. Something about being uprooted from one place in your formative years and planted in unfamiliar soil causes this restlessness and rootlessness, like a flower planted in a pot, ready to be moved and transplanted at any moment.
Nesting and building a home with my partner have tended to that restlessness. I no longer describe myself as someone who’s “home but never home”, something I would often say to speak to an ever-present absence no matter where I was. Being able to create new traditions, explore a pathway of our choosing and carve what home feels like for two Queer Black folk has been so much more than reclaiming my right to love who I love – it has been about unravelling and reconnecting with parts of my being that were patiently waiting to lead me back home to myself.
Although I didn’t ‘come out’ in the Westernised sense, and saw my process as more of “letting in”, it has been an invitation to unpeel the layers of who I was trying so hard to be, for my emotional and interpersonal safety. In the process of living out and proud, I’ve met my seven-year-old self. The sweet little angel who knew she liked everyone although she didn’t have the language of pansexuality yet, had a strong awareness that she needed to swallow her tongue and hold those parts and experiences tightly to herself. Over the years she shapeshifted, morphing into different characters playing different roles, collecting wounds, scars and memories. “A prize performer long before I actually knew it too, 'cause I was faking me out of the me”, as Jill Scott says in her def poetry jam – fantasy of sorts, attempting to read and stick to the script.
It’s been like a death and rebirth of sorts that has coincided with my Saturn return and what’s felt like the ultimate vibe shift. According to Chani Nicholas, a Saturn return is when the planet Saturn travels back to the same place it was when one was born. It takes 27 to 30 years for Saturn to travel through the signs and everyone goes through a Saturn return at the end of their 20s, 50s, and 80s. Saturn rules reality checks, restriction, mortality and loss, and begs for much-needed structure.
Saturn rules reality checks, restriction, mortality and loss, and begs for much-needed structure.
In 2020 Saturn entered Aquarius, and those born from 1991 to 1993 are currently experiencing their first Saturn return. I had heard of a Saturn return but I truly wasn’t expecting the shifts that came my way. The return lasts approximately three years, and in March 2020 as I sat at the bottom of what felt like the depth of the ocean, reluctant to come up for air, I knew it was Saturn. Besties became strangers, the folk I shared news with changed, friends flowed down different paths. I watched as things I didn’t see coming happened. Time went on despite the ways it felt it had stopped for me – all while attempting to adult in a global pandemic. It was giving the tower card.
Ruled by Mars and fuelled by the fire element, the tower is a major arcana card that symbolises life lessons and long-term aspects of life. In the Black Queer Tarot Deck the destruction the tower card represents is a purging of outdated structures, systems and mindsets. The tower suggests that abrupt, drastic change is necessary to reveal a new path and rebuild accordingly, so I think about the tower card in relation to one’s Saturn return; as the end of one cycle and the beginning of another.
In the Black Queer Tarot Deck the destruction the tower card represents is a purging of outdated structures, systems and mindsets.
From conversations with people that are journeying through their Saturn return and those that have just completed the three-year cycle, the most common massive shift was in people’s interpersonal relationships. Significant milestones like purchasing first homes are accomplished alongside the death of family members and the sobering reality of one’s parents’ mortality. We welcome children, whether our own or those of our siblings and chosen family, while simultaneously feeling lonelier and exhausted. As someone said, “real ones pull through in their own ways and the new connections that reflect the space you are in are a joy”. While there is a deep appreciation of low-maintenance friendships, there is a realisation that some friends can’t be there for you in ways you need them to be. They either can’t hold the space or don’t have the capacity to. Some people aren’t genuinely happy for you, and you are forced to reconcile the toxicity of interactions while coming to terms with choosing a different path to those around you.
there is a realisation that some friends can’t be there for you in ways you need them to be
Pressure to have everything together, be married and start a family, etc., is eased by a certain confidence, owning characteristics and life choices that were once demonised – like being sensitive, ‘extra’, and not wanting to have children. There’s reclamation of power that was once outsourced, seeking external validation. Now there’s joy found in the simple things, and most of the people I speak to find themselves more content in their lives than they previously were.
One of the questions I put forward was what things folk would advise putting in place to support this transition, or the things that, in hindsight, this process was trying to teach them. Someone noted that the coping mechanisms we are used to might not always be available to us, and there’s a need to learn to have other support systems for stress release. A kete containing therapy, caring for one’s body through movement, tending to one’s soul through a spiritual practice and learning about one’s health was suggested. Most advised disconnecting from the noise, managing expectations (of yourself and others), learning to say ‘no’ and putting boundaries in place. Others said they wished they had shared more with their parents about the different things they were experiencing.
Personally, I wish I had learnt how to budget sooner and made better financial decisions. I guess, as they say, retrospect is a teacher and there’s something about welcoming the lessons that each season serves. Even if it’s towards the end of the season, the lessons can serve as seeds that can be planted for the next one. Thankfully I’m in the final leg of my Saturn return, embracing what my elders have always taught me, that getting older is a gift. In Shona we say “kuchembera mucherechedzo we nguva yakanaka”, which loosely translates to “getting older is a container of the beautiful times, as ageing is indication of a long life.”
I’m also thankful that Black don’t crack.
Header illustration is by Sherry Zhang.
This piece is featured as part of Issue 06: Vibe Shift, guest-edited by Tayi Tibble. Click here to read more essays in the series.