When I go through periods of doubt or change in my life, I turn to astrology. I don’t mean simple star sign horoscopes, I mean planets, signs, asteroids, houses, the real deal. It helps me understand myself, and the relationships I have with other people, and it allows me to make sense of the world. I grew up learning about astrology from my mother, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know that Chiron is “the wounded healer” or that if your Mercury is in Capricorn your brain is like a filing cabinet (unless it’s conjunct Neptune, like mine is. My brain is like a room full of screens, and each thought is a tiny TV that I can choose whether or not to tune into).
Over the past year, my knowledge of astrology became more than just a matrilineal heirloom, it became a passion. I had a lot of soul searching to do, and I read up on astrology to aid me in that process.The more I read, the more I understood myself and the way I relate to this world. I learnt why I idolise love, why I have such a strong sense of justice when it comes to how I’m treated, why I go insane if I don’t eat healthily, why I’m a tiny bit of a control freak, why I constantly need an audience. I learnt what my own needs are, and how to meet them. Come to think of it, I think there’s even an astrological explanation for why I feel the need to post about my private emotions all over the internet. Moon = emotions, Aquarius = technology, trine to Midheaven = publicity, Gemini midheaven = writing and communication.
Last night I was having a wee bit of an existential crisis. It’s two weeks till I start my third year of university. I want this year to be a fresh start, but I don’t know how it can be. I will walk the same streets and listen to the same songs, and history will repeat itself. I will fall back into my old routine, and it will be comfortable and familiar and it will feel wrong. Because I have changed. At the beginning of the summer I wrote that I was a caterpillar entering a cocoon, and I would emerge in autumn as a (very out-of-season) butterfly. I have emerged. But the butterfly can’t shake the feeling of what it meant to be a caterpillar, and she doesn’t know how to incorporate her wings into her new life.
Third year will be a fresh start, because I am the closest to a blank slate I could ever hope to be. I have faced my demons, healed many of my wounds, purged my life of anything that was holding me back from my growth. I am the closest I have ever been to my authentic self, but I worry: does that mean my past self is inauthentic? Was the caterpillar a fake because she grew into a butterfly?
Back to my existential crisis. I lay wide awake at 2am, sending increasingly dramatic messages to a friend, which earned the natural responses of “go to sleep Eliza” and “you’re being dramatic”, in amongst some good and realistic advice (as an Aquarius, I greatly appreciate people who tell it as it is, and sometimes I do need to be told when I’m dramatic). The crux of my crisis was that I’m scared that 1) I am not my true self with most of my friends, and 2) people wouldn’t like me if they knew the real me. You see, there are two Elizas. There is smiley, cuddly, witty Eliza, who can be sweet and charming and affectionate, and is an absolute ray of sunshine. Then there is ice queen Eliza, who is blunt, honest, hard around the edges. She is smarter than she’ll let you realise, and she is ambitious and determined. She is a good person, but not necessarily a nice one. She sits upon her moral high horse, which is black and white, with little room for grey areas. If you disrespect her boundaries or break her trust, she will surgically remove you from her life. Ice queen Eliza is a veteran of enacting the INFJ door slam. She is not afraid to start from nothing.
The two Elizas have coexisted to a certain extent over the years. Ray of sunshine Eliza usually gains control eventually, because it’s easier to make friends when you’re nice. But by the early hours of this morning, when I’d been over thinking for way too long, I began to wonder if ray of sunshine Eliza was a fake. Ice queen Eliza feels like my most authentic self. The past couple of years have taught me important lessons about setting boundaries, and that, combined with my black moon lilith in Libra in the first house, can make me seem like I have a heart of stone, and care only about protecting my own needs.
Ice queen Eliza is someone I believe people can grow to respect, and maybe even love. But she is not likeable, by any means. And in two weeks from now I somehow have to make friends, as my authentic potentially-unlikeable self. Hence the existential crisis.
But this evening, my perspective shifted. I was looking at my astrology chart, as I usually do when I’m depressed and confused and wondering what the hell actually is human existence, and I had a thought that never occurred to me before. Neither the ray of sunshine Eliza persona, nor the ice queen Eliza persona is more real or fake than the other. Perhaps I more consciously choose to show one to the world, but they are both real and both a part of me.
In astrology, the midheaven represents our reputation, and the public face we put out to the world, it is how society sees us. My midheaven is in Gemini, and the symbol for Gemini is the twins. I.e. two, duality, etc. Therefore, one can conclude that I have two faces that I put out to the world, and therein lies the issue. I have been blaming myself for being more than one thing, as if only one face could be real.
I’m not a fake or a liar for being a multifaceted person. I shouldn’t hate myself for holding such polarised energies within me. I have a constant need for change, and that is a huge part of who I am. I like to think that my spirit animal is a wolf, but it is most likely a chameleon. I change my colours to adapt to the situation. I worry that that makes me a liar, which is the last thing in the world I want to be. But I have learnt that life is more nuanced than that.
For two years, my favourite colour has been purple. I have purple bedding, purple pyjamas, purple towels, a purple dressing gown, a purple handbag, a purple purse, and I used to have a wardrobe full of purple clothing. People have joked that I looked like I was sponsored by Ribena, that’s how much I draped myself in purple. A couple of weeks ago, my favourite colour changed to blue. It used to be a blue a long time ago, and it switched back, seemingly without reason. After years of dressing myself in garish pink and purple clothes, I want to be clad only in calming shades of blue. It feels natural, it feels right. And I ask myself, did I fake a love of purple for two years? Purple always felt like a performance. But I am incapable of lying, I cannot have lied to myself for that long, and pretended to love something that I didn’t?
It feels like a metaphor for my life, and by exploring that theme, I have come to realise where the problem lies. My past self was not a theory waiting to be proven. She was not a hypothesis that must turn out to be wrong or right. She was a work in progress, but that doesn’t make her less of a person. It doesn’t make her a fake or a liar. As we get older, we learn about ourselves, we learn what we do and don’t like, what we do and don’t need. Once we learn what makes us feel good and healthy, we remove other things from our lives. We are constantly cultivating our own little world, and it should be a pleasant one to live in. But that doesn’t discredit all the things we tried out along the way.
I’ve gotten rid of almost all of my purple clothes. They don’t feel like me anymore. But I still have a purple bedspread, a purple dressing gown, purple scarves. There are still remnants of my old self in my new life, and maybe I will phase them out eventually too. But right now I am transitioning into a new timeline, learning about a version of myself I didn’t think would come to be. I am still a stranger to me, even though I know myself inside out.
I am a human, not a butterfly, and change is not as simple as crawling into a cocoon all summer long and re-emerging as a winged and beautiful creature. Change is cyclical, and it comes in many layers. I am still learning lessons I thought I put to rest long ago. I am still learning what I tolerate in my life, and I am still learning who I want to be.
Third year will be a fresh start for me, because I will make it so. I will walk off into the sunset in blue denim, with my dyed black hair dancing in the breeze, and this will be my happy ending, my happy beginning, the narrative I have chosen for myself. I will choose not to feel like a fake just because I change my mind every two weeks and change my personality every three. I am learning and growing and adapting to my environment, and there is nothing to be ashamed of in that. I have four planets in Aquarius, change is my middle name. I wasn’t born to be one thing, and I am incapable of existing in a place where I don’t have the freedom to experiment and reinvent myself.
I feel like I’m growing into my Aquarius self more lately, but I often relate more to earth signs than to air ones. My ascendant, how the world experiences me, is in Virgo, and I have three planets in Capricorn. I thrive on organisation and discipline. My great passions in life are firm boundaries and well-written to-do lists (with all the apostrophes in the right places, and the correct spelling of the words you’re/your). In spite of my Aquarius planets, in many cases I come across as a textbook Virgo. I am pedantic and health-conscious and efficient and reserved, I like to help others and I have a way with words. The duality of the strong Virgo energy in my astrology chart, and the Aquarius energy can somehow coexist within me, and both feel like home in different ways.
That is one of the things I love most about astrology, that it shows the multifaceted nature of human personality and experience. We are not just one thing or one sign, we are a mix of so many different energies. Whilst I am strongly Aquarius and Capricorn and Virgo, I have mars in Pisces, and saturn in Aries, chiron in Scorpio, and pluto in Sagittarius, not to mention all the asteroids in various parts of my chart. I am an eclectic mix of all these different planetary energies, and I am not fake for tuning into some of those energies more than others in different situations.
When you first meet me, you will probably experience the energy of my Virgo ascendant or Gemini midheaven. I could be reserved and shy, or witty and talkative. But once you get to know me, you will see my Capricorn venus and mercury, the way I love to build solid foundations and am ambitious as hell about both my writing and my love life. You will see my Aquarius sun and moon, the way my emotions and identity are inseparable because those planets are so damn close together. You’ll see my staunch moral code, my belief in the good in humanity, my craving for community. You’ll see my Pisces mars, the way my anger only comes out through my art, the way my writing is the thing I am most passionate about. When you get to know me, you will see me as the multifaceted person that I am, if I allow you to.
Perhaps you won’t get past the first layer, perhaps you will never progress beyond the Virgo or Gemini outer shells. But they are still a fundamental part of me, and they’re not fake. Virgo and Gemini are both ruled by the planet mercury, which represents thinking and communication. Which means, if nothing else, no matter which of my public personas you meet, you will know me as a writer, and in many ways, that is my most authentic self.
There is a part of me that is terrified of having to make new friends in two weeks from now. I’m scared I’m not likeable, I’m scared I’m the most socially awkward person ever. I’m scared people will like me at first, and run away the moment they see my depths. But I can’t use that fear as an excuse to punish myself for my supposed short-comings. I shouldn’t disparage myself for being more than one thing. Yes, I change my personality every few weeks, but my core values and beliefs have stayed the same. I’m less uptight than I used to be, I have more understanding of moral grey areas, I’m not so much of a goody two shoes anymore. But all those changes, this constant need to reinvent myself, it has given me so much insight into the human condition. I have learnt what remains when all the outer parts of me are stripped away. I have seen who I am when personality and circumstances are nothing but a fleeting shadow. And I love myself and trust myself, in spite of what I saw. If I can learn to do that, then so can others, in which case, I have nothing to be afraid of.