I WROTE myself a ‘to do’ list again. Not the supermarket or day-to-day kind, but one for life.

It all started with what really was a minor setback; an opportunity I felt I had missed out on. Yet, the dominos in my mind started falling quickly, bringing one question to the forefront of it all – one I have asked myself repeatedly throughout my twenties: Why can I not just ‘get it together?’

This wasn’t the first time I penned down a breakdown of my ambitions and vision for a better me. Lists like this one have become somewhat of a repeat occurrence of my steps to adulthood. I have written dozens of them just like it.

These lists were sparked by the options of possibility and dreams of a certain future I saw opening up for myself as my twenties began; tied to the notion that this was the time to carve myself into the person I wanted to be for the rest of my life – and do so fast.

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Like others before, my newest list included goals to work harder and effectively. Get up earlier; do more hours towards passion projects that further my career. It also included other, at times contradicting, items on the agenda. Get up earlier, but get enough sleep. Work harder towards achieving your career goals, but prioritise your mental health and find more time for yourself. See your friends more and travel regularly – but save more money.

I know I am not the only person that feels a form of pressure during these formative years. The concept that certain milestones act as a marker towards the journey of adulthood is nothing new. We all know the traditional ‘coming of age’ pillars that have been part of society for decades: independence from your family, finding work, marriage, kids, a house.

However, it is nothing new either that such pillars have shifted. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published data in 2019 showing an increase in the average age; both when it comes to marriage and having children, as well as buying property. Some of this is by choice – others arguably, through changing conditions – some of which have only got worse since the pandemic.

Currently, first-time buyers in Scotland face property values around five times the average Scottish salary according to Lloyds Banking Group, while salaries have been falling in real terms – in what the ONS says is ‘among the largest falls’ since records began.

Of course I and my generation are not first to face adversity, societal pressures, and other challenges on our personal quests to fulfilment. Other generations have faced war, recessions, mass unemployment, societal inequality – only last week I reflected on what women in Scotland had achieved so that I today can even consider working in the field I am in and be as independent as I want to be – but some of these pressures seem to have forced a re-alignment of goals.

My goals have always focused more on general financial stability, improving my career, finding happiness, and taking better care of myself – both physically and mentally. I am not alone either – research from the Prince’s Trust released this month detailed that the cost of living crisis and coming recession are young people’s ‘biggest worries’, while the biggest goals of those questioned included financial security and ‘good mental health.’

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I have had lists to achieve these things sprawled across the walls of my bedroom, tucked into journals, saved on my phone. I come across old drafts when I tidy; read them, crumple them up, and throw them away with a half smile and a stinging feeling of defeat.

I had not saved any money as costs of living went up. I had worked more on other projects to make money, rather than the passion projects I was hoping to achieve. Taking care of my mental health had taken a backseat and mostly consisted of a bi-daily 30 minute walk around the park – upkeep of which often seems more chore than wellbeing exercise.

Of course, not all ended in failure. Two years ago my list said I wanted to finish university and I wanted to be a journalist; and I succeeded. The tasks I had given myself did propel me into the position that I worked as a reporter before I graduated.

However, part of my list was never that I would be quitting the job I so desperately wanted after feeling unhappy, and find myself back at the crossroads where it had all begun a year before.

So, as I sat – once again penning steps towards my vision of a new, better me – I suddenly faced the reality that, in all their well-intended ambition, my lists did not have a good success rate.

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Writing them may have felt cathartic at first, but what I thought was a form of self-help was in equal parts self-torture; that – no matter the societal context or environment I was in – what was separating me from achieving milestones was me.

However, in these uncertain times – a cost of living crisis, changing political environments, inflation, a constant threat of recession – are such expectations realistic? The idea that success is purely up to us brings a form of comfort, but realistically positive results are not guaranteed as the conditions in which we operate change.

So, if this is the case – if the goal posts keep changing alongside life’s twists and turns and – as I have begun to assume – continue no matter what age, will I ever really feel my list is complete? And can we really ‘get it together’ when so much of our ability to do so is tied to factors out of our control?

I have come to think that maybe it is time to let go of the idea of ‘getting it together’ – in your twenties or ever – all together.

Daniella Theis is Scottish Student Journalist of the Year