Year 2008. When I was 21 years old, a dear friend of mine Meymuna Hussein wrote a play called "Saturn Return" to help cope with major transitions in her life. She was approaching her thirties. According to astrology, this is the period of our life when the planet Saturn completes its orbit around the Sun, coinciding with the time of our birth. It happens every 29.5 years – and you start to feel the effects between ages 27 - 31. All thanks to my older and wiser soul sister Meymuna, I had about 7 more years to prepare for mine!
Or so I thought.
Year 2013. For my 27th birthday, I visited an astrologer for my first time. It was a woman I found on yelp, and I gifted myself with a session to see if I could gain tips on how to survive the next 3 years of my life. Wet met at a Starbucks where she read my natal chart , and I learned absolutely nothing new about myself as i got lost in the astrological jargon. (Eleventh house of whaaat?) So she told me to come back in November 2016 when my Saturn would peak since that’s when my chart would shift. I couldn't wait that long, so instead I gathered a group of about twenty women who I considered sisters from their twenties to their fifties to sit in circle with me and share their wisdom around surviving this transition. Those lessons are still on my door today, and I learned the invaluable power of sisterhood.
Several months after that, I got my first full-time dream job. Prior to this, I was working for multiple organizations as a consultant, facilitating workshops around arts education and social justice and wondering if a life like this could ever lead to stability since I was creating it as I went. Now, my fancy new role would be as a violence prevention coordinator in the field of domestic violence and sexual assault. I worked on a rape crisis hotline as a counselor, and facilitated workshops with Southeast Asian American youth around healthy relationships and the root causes of violence. We also spent a lot of time envisioning what a beloved community looks like as an alternative to all the problems we are too often asked to focus on. That year was also the highest rate of gun shootings in Long Beach, and it became my mission to get them to see how all of these issues are connected.
A year and a half passed by. I was called into the office for an “emergency meeting” with my superiors, who couldn't even name a single youth in my program. In our short meeting, I was told my focus of violence was too broad, and that I had challenges listening to authority. I had a resistance toward working with the police, and it seemed that I had forgotten who I worked for since I prioritized being with our community partners. Amongst other hurtful things that were said which dismissed all the work I had accomplished, one of their last words to me was, “You’re a free spirit. Go and be free now.” Without a two week notice or a chance to say goodbye to my coworkers and the youth I had built deep relationships with, I was asked to immediately leave the premises.
The people who should have been my biggest advocates in this work turned around to harm me the most. That’s when I realized all the moments I had spoken up about opportunities to shift our approach in violence prevention were taken as acts of rebellion, and those in charge were not having it.
I felt there had to be alternative ways to heal outside of a system that perpetuated the very same things it claimed to fight against. But first, I had to heal myself.
Year 2016. I was turning 29 years old. Jobless and depressed.
That same week, we also cremated my partner’s father.
Saturn was kicking my butt.
After sulking in my own sadness for over a month, I knew I needed to get out of my head and into my body.
So I joined a fitness studio. It was a childhood fantasy of mine to one day join the circus, so I found a studio that offered barre, pole dancing, hoop, and aerial silks. I couldn’t afford a membership fee, so I signed up for a one-week trial to temporarily appease my inner child. The morning of my first class, I was told they were offering a work study internship with applications due within the hour! I rushed home to submit it, but didn’t have high hopes since I had no experience in aerial arts unlike the other candidates. The following day at the studio, the manager pulled me aside and asked me to be a part of their family based off of “vibes”. (Imagine if all jobs hired people based on this alone!) And thus, began my journey at Fembody Fitness.
In my time there, I was able to meet so many women who told me they were able to leave their abusive relationships after becoming comfortable with their sensuality and being around other empowered women. No crisis hotlines or police calls. The answers were already in our bodies, and with the company of each other.
Since then, it became a journey for me to explore what else was out there.
I became a reiki practitioner.
I took herbalism classes at Green Wisdom Herbal Studies. Weeds became less of a nuance to me as I began to see certain plants as my medicine allies. My friend Kirsten Hale, The Crazy Herbalist, facilitated workshops around trauma-informed herbalism from the perspective of a survivor.
I joined an amazing group of conscious women entrepreneurs called the Dames Club, and realized we don’t have to wait on anyone to offer us jobs when we can create it. We are the ones we've been waiting for.
I joined a cooperative learning group to learn more about alternative forms of economic stability outside of non-profit work.
I road tripped to the Redwoods and Yosemite for my first time to commune with nature.
And I started consulting with Creative Interventions, an organization that seeks to explore alternative ways of violence intervention.
All this while being an intern at Fembody. That studio saved me, and helped me to reclaim my body and sense of self-worth after experiencing shame. With only good vibes, I parted ways with them on October 31, 2016 to focus on art and building my life coaching practice.
I never went back to see an astrologer in November 2016. Instead, I only need to look within to see that the Universe has plans for me, and that all I need to do is trust the process. I still have my waves of emotions and self-doubt about the future, but I now see every challenge as a blessing that is ready to emerge.
Regarding my brief time working within the non-profit industrial complex, I feel more confident than ever to reenter professional spaces to expand people’s perception of what violence prevention and healing can look like. I also recognize that the people working within those institutions are often the ones in need of healing the most. If we are not taking care of our own wounds, we will inflict them on others. I have compassion for those who caused me harm, but no longer see myself as the victim of it. What happens for me in 2017 is a mystery, and despite all the growth I experienced this past year, one thing remains the same:
I’m still a free-spirit. <3
Now, where is Meymuna? Married to the love of her life, and doing badass work since surviving her Saturn. Check out the organization she co-founded with her mother, TIYYA, which works to provide incoming refugees and displaced Americans with basic necessities in their transition to Orange County and Los Angeles. It was a service her family wishes they had when they first arrived as refugees from Ethiopia, and now they have created this opportunity for others. Consider volunteering or donating to their amazing work!