It’s a chilly Saturday morning in 1988, about 6:30 am Pacific time, and I’m sitting at the dinette table in my tiny apartment, watching the weak late winter sun struggle to rise. I’m on the phone to an east coast hotel, employing every tool in my arsenal—begging, wheedling, flirting, and tears—to persuade the reservations manager to find a vacant room for an upcoming conference.
Part of my job as an administrative assistant for a monolithic water wholesaler involves making travel reservations for a demanding, 50-member board of directors. The conference hotel has been sold out for months, and one director, who has just decided he will attend, doesn’t understand why booking his reservation might be difficult if not impossible.
My immediate boss, the elegant but formidable Executive Secretary to the Board, would be even less understanding. If I show up on Monday without securing the impossible hotel reservation, she will indicate—through pursed lips and icy demeanor—her extreme disappointment. If I try to explain, as I have in the past, that I have tried everything and that it is not my fault the director didn’t plan ahead, her voice will get even quieter and more deadly: “It is ALWAYS your responsibility to make sure our directors have what they need,” she will say. “Do not blame your failure on them.”
For all intents and purposes, I work for the Devil Who Wore Prada. And so, I’m working early on a Saturday morning to do the impossible—because she expects results, because I refuse to be defeated, and because in my heart of hearts, I know she’s right.
In 1988, a pitiless triumvirate of Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune were transiting arm-and-arm through Capricorn, a sign that symbolizes responsibility, authority, and the refusal to take no for an answer. Not surprisingly, my boss was born with the Sun in that sign (the sign of my natal Saturn). From her, I learned that achieving an outcome was always my responsibility. My job was to get results, and anything short of that was my failure. Fairness had nothing to do with it; I must never make excuses or attempt to shift the blame. This was harsh tutelage, and I escaped the job as soon as I could; yet it provided some of the most valuable training of my life.
Karen was one of three Sun Sign Capricorns—let’s call them the Three Kings, since each brought me an invaluable gift—who have had the greatest impact on my professional life. Another was my high school music teacher, who taught me that my fanatical work ethic was something to be respected and rewarded. But I also learned from Tom that hard work must be tempered with compassion. He has often said that the most important lesson he learned as a teacher was that “kids won’t care what you know, unless they know that you care.” He pushed us hard and let us know that he expected excellence from us, and we did our best to meet those expectations—because he also showed us that he genuinely enjoyed, loved, and believed in us.
The third Capricorn who influenced me most was my father, more by genetics than by example, since he died when I was very young. He was a farmer who worked long, hard hours and took extra jobs to keep food on the table for his family. Like dad, each of his surviving children works feverishly hard, prefers self-employment, and loathes being told what to do. I doubt that’s a coincidence.
Scrappy independence, an obsessive work ethic tempered with humanity, and a complete refusal to admit defeat or to shift blame for failure: this is the legacy of the important Capricorns in my life. Their lessons helped me grapple with my ambitions as a professional musician, climb to the upper echelon of the administrative ladder at the water agency before my first Saturn return, and have the confidence to leave a high-paying job to become a professional astrologer at the age of thirty. Their voices in the back of my mind pushed me to return to school in my late thirties to finish my college degree, to found my website, write three books under tight deadlines, and persevere in a challenging career for nearly three decades.
At this New Moon, six planets are transiting through Capricorn, including, once again, its ruling planet, Saturn. That’s a lot of planetary energy in one not-exactly-easygoing sign. But to me, Capricorn represents the flinty, determined, compassionate, driven voices that were part of every good thing I’ve ever accomplished in my life. From Capricorn, I learned to step up and take responsibility; learned poise and accountability; learned, when the time came, to be a leader.
We live in tough times, and there is a lot wrong with the world that is unfair and isn’t our fault. But Capricorn taught me this, and some days it makes me angry as a hornet: Just because something happens that is unfair or isn’t our fault doesn’t absolve us from our responsibility to try to achieve the life that we want. Whenever someone tells me about their problems and rattle off a long list of reasons why overcoming them is impossible, I know I’m hearing the self-imposed limitations of their Saturn. And the Capricorn Three Kings rise up in me to tell them, “Start focusing on what will work instead of what won’t work. Take back your life.”
On the day three years ago when transiting Saturn crossed the threshold of my first house, a tiny voice inside my head said, “If you don’t like your life, it’s up to you to change it into something you do like. Nobody else is going to do it for you.” I recognized that voice; it was a blend of those three dear Capricorn kings, reminding me that there is always a constructive way to respond to the world, things that can be done with the resources available to me to make my life better. I won’t say the past few years have been easy, any more than working for those demanding directors was easy—but I can say it’s been one of the most rewarding periods of my life.
The tough voice of Capricorn dominates this New Moon cycle, and I am deeply grateful for it. We focus so much on Capricorn’s toughness that we overlook its message of empowerment—that we are the authors of our lives, writing each chapter in real time through our decisions and choices. Yours is a story only you can write, and it’s one that the world is waiting to read. Make it the best one you can.
© 2018 April Elliott Kent