Although astrology and spirituality have categorically been known as taboo or hoopla to those who consider themselves to be religious, the truth is they are one in the same.

Zodiac signs, birth charts, crystals, sage, palo santo, tarot cards and planets in retrograde have reemerged in a gentrified state of expensive fairy dust, but it's important to know that such astrological practices are not simply smoke and mirrors. They are also not anti-religious. Astrology is not about the absence of God. In fact, it is the very essence of Him/Her, and even has led me to a closer relationship with the Most High.

MTV's 2001 musical drama Carmen: A Hip Hopera — a unique twist on Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte's famed 1954 musical Carmen Jones, which was also based on the classic 1875 opera Carmen — ignited my curiosity about these mythic tools. The remake features Beyoncé Knowles and Mekhi Phifer in a romantic drama. While the pair’s rap and R&B-influenced love affair left more questions than answers, it was the movie's pivotal "Cards Never Lie" scene that struck me the most. At a crucial “should I stay or should I go” moment in the plot, the naive protagonist received the fate of death during her tarot reading.

My highly impressionable 12-year-old self was intrigued by the fortune and the chain of events that followed. It caused me to question if she caused her own death by ditching her supposed “true love” for money and fame, or was her unfortunate ending in the stars all along. As the story unfolds, it became apparent that Carmen's fate was a direct result of her actions.

Years later, I would reach my own defining moment. After four years of college and thousands of dollars in student loan debt, I had no full-time job to show for it. By this time, I had already found my like-minded tribe, was well aware of myself as a "sensitive" Cancer and had just begun to explore the differences between one's sun, moon and ascendant signs. The early post-graduate years of my life were spent with many ups and downs, attempting to understand the influx and outflow of my career trajectory and romantic pursuits.

Throughout 2012 to 2014, I made a more habitual practice of using crystals to attract specific energies, oracle cards to communicate with my guardians and rituals to release unwanted habits that were taking space away from desired manifestations. In viewing the universe and all of its energies as an extension of God, all things seemed possible. If God created the universe and I was created in the likeness of God, would it be hard to believe that the universe is also working in my favor?

Of course, it's far easier to reckon with that truth when things are going well.

In 2016, I became increasingly aware that my Saturn return was creeping upon me. This life-altering transit occurs when the planet Saturn makes a complete rotation to the exact place it resided at your birth, which takes about 27 to 30 years. Known as a period of critical analysis in terms of determining a person’s true purpose in the world and wake-up call regarding the past, I foolishly thought I had it all together. In both my career and love life, I felt that I had reached a promising plateau. I was dating someone who I hoped would become a long-time partner, and I had a job I enjoyed with a title that made me feel secure and necessary. I moved into my first non-shared apartment, a huge one-bedroom (according to New York City standards), beautifully decorated and extremely spacious in a warm Brooklyn neighborhood.

Four months later, my position of nearly two years — and the department it belonged to — was suddenly dissolved: A branding overhaul. On top of that, my partnership of one-and-a-half years fell to pieces and failed to recuperate at every given chance. Crushed and defeated, I sulked for months and sat in shame. Attempts to find a replacement job amounted to nothing; personal phone calls were made, professional mass BCC'd emails were sent, even coffee and lunch with mentors, professors and previous employers proved to be useless.

On my seventh month of zero propositions for a single job interview, I had an emotional breakdown. There literally was no explanation I could find for the lack of responses I received. I was angry with God, with the universe and with myself for the lack of direction. Living off of my savings, I worried that I would lose all that I felt I had worked so hard to attain — little did I know I was learning an intended lesson.

One mentally defeated day, I randomly wandered into my favorite crystal store, Namaste Bookshop, and felt the urge to buy my very first Rider-Waite tarot deck — the most commercially successful of them all. Asking for spiritual guidance and career advice, that night I used the 10-card Celtic cross spread for clarity and in the final draw, known as the outcome, I pulled the death card.

Previously, I found that the death card rarely refers to the physical manifestation of one's funeral — as Robert Townsend’s Hip Hopera suggests — but the mental and emotional experience of endings and new beginnings. In actuality, I was being called to a greater purpose, one that I had been fighting off for some time.

Furthermore, I looked at my birth report for answers and found that my natal chart was also treading through fairly difficult Uranus and Neptune transits. These planetary movements, typically known as the precursor to one's Saturn return, are known for inciting abrupt change in the physical and the mental — disrupting one's trajectory for destiny.

Similar to Carmen, I realized that much of my own decisions had led me to the stagnant path I was on. The truth was that I had lost my way long ago and this was God's way of repositioning me for better. Ironically, the job I spent so long mourning over was initially only supposed to be a temporary gig. I knew that I was capable of fulfilling the daily duties with ease and that it couldn't fulfill my desires for long-term growth. Confident it would be a great starting ground, I took on the task with every intention of using it as a catalyst, but I got too comfortable. I let the money motivate me and I procrastinated on all other pursuits. I moved into that expensive (but beautiful) Brooklyn apartment, stopped creating outside of work and quit imagining more for myself. I became content and was living my day-to-day life playing small, knowing a bigger life was intended for me.

At the beginning of my depressed state, I prayed every day and grew frustrated at the lack of clear and succinct answers. Astrology eventually became my only place of refuge. I followed each significant moon phase to release my fears and jot down my dreams. I consulted oracle cards and my tarot deck for advice. I used information from my birth chart to promote inner growth: How having Chiron in Cancer made my desire to be loved greater than my love for self; how my Mars in Leo ignited my fear of judgment; and how all those things — and many more — are simply guides to areas of improvement, not destined curses. I decided to lean in to myself, instead of escaping into things like unrewarding work and lackluster partnerships. I let go of the belief that someone or something outside of myself could save me. I found my way back to my purpose through astrology, and astrology placed me back on a direct path with God.

What I came to realize, in fact, was that God and the universe were working hand in hand to save me from a fate I didn't deserve; one that was mediocre compared to the greater of my talents and far less compared to the love I craved. Forced to ask myself what I truly wanted out of life and not just what could easily bring me monetary gain or temporary joy, new windows of opportunity opened in ways I wouldn't have otherwise imagined.

The next month, I found a less expensive home and acquired a new job to go with my revised professional goals. In the end, I ran through over $30,000 in savings due to the setbacks, but knowing that these were all divine events for my greatest good meant there was no need for regrets — I have none.

Believing in astrology, mythic tools and spirituality are not simply about believing whether or not people can communicate with other realms or predict the future. It's about finding the universe from within, as we all contribute to its vast mysteriousness in our own distinct ways.

Believing in God is about believing in the dust, and the stars, and the energy, and the minerals, and the mystery and the magic; it’s about believing in oneself.