11/30/2011 05:35 pm ET | Updated Dec 01, 2011

How to Deal: Everyone's Getting Engaged

Katy Reddin | The Daily Muse

There are few things that send a gal into a panic faster than logging onto Facebook and seeing yet another dreaded "hand" picture. You know what I'm talking about: the photo that immediately tells the world "I'm engaged!" with a close-up view of the blushing bride-to-be's left finger and its shiny new hardware.

It should be a celebratory moment, but here's why it's bittersweet: When my friends and I graduated, we were mostly on the same page about our anticipated futures. We would get jobs, date different, attractive and interesting people every week, and each live in our own adorable studio apartments that would very closely resemble the pages of Anthropologie catalogues.

Of course, none of that actually happened. Entering the real world can sometimes feel like stepping into a horribly disappointing surprise party. Surprise! It's the worst job market in decades. Surprise! Doorknobs at Anthropologie cost a quarter of your paycheck. Surprise! Carrie Bradshaw lied -- about everything. And on it goes.

So when you realize that your friends seem to have become adults overnight, while you're still wearing mismatched socks every day and trying to find someone worthy of even a second date, a little anxiety is probably inevitable.

But, remember that you're not the only one who's ever felt this way. If it seems that your life has veered off its anticipated "track" while everyone else's is charging ahead, here are some tips for dealing:

1. Gain Some Perspective

Take a step back and think: What would your life be like if everything had gone as planned? For me, the months of recession-induced uncertainty, rejection and unpaid internships that came before I landed my first job made me realize how lucky I was to have that job and made me work my underpaid booty off to keep it. Similarly, living with a roommate in a shoebox apartment in Manhattan has taught me some serious life skills about organization, the necessity of alone time and never counting on that leftover slice of pizza in the fridge. As much as it might pain you to admit it, there's truth in the saying that life's best lessons come from facing unforeseen setbacks.

2. Get Rid of the Pedestals

While it's easy to project your feelings of anxiety onto your friends and their newfound joy, try to remember that your engaged pals are likely just as surprised as you are that they're taking this huge step in their lives. "Adulthood" isn't a tangible thing that you suddenly possess, and becoming engaged won't necessarily make your friends feel like grown-ups. If you're placing your friends on a pedestal, remember: That shiny new diamond is just one part of the story. Their lives might not be going exactly as they anticipated, either.

3. Track Your Progress

Write down what you thought you would have accomplished by this point in your life. Then write down what you actually have accomplished. You'll likely look at the two lists and realize that you've achieved many of your goals -- even if your methods were nontraditional. You may also have surpassed your expectations, redefined your aspirations, and met ones you hadn't even anticipated. And if there are still a few goals on that original list that you'd like to achieve, recognize that their being there will push you to keep achieving.

4. Say a Silent Thank You

Now make a list of everything that you are grateful for -- from that daily cappuccino to those long runs after work. It's likely that few (if any) of your gratitude-inducing treats are exclusive privileges of married people. And you'll feel less stressed when you remember the amazing things you do have (like time for Sunday brunch -- your wedding-planning friends probably can't say the same).

5. Just Be Patient

Of course, even after all this, you might still be wondering: but when is it going to be my turn? And sure, that's fair. But look at it this way: Nothing about your life has been as you expected it to be, so why should getting engaged or married be any different?

I'm still a single gal myself, and I don't have it all figured out. But I think that maybe one day you just realize that there is no "right time," but there is a right person whom you had better hold onto for dear life.

Maybe it won't hit you until you're uploading a picture of your own hand to Facebook -- and then you'll smile with a hint of satisfied irony. You'll remember all the mixed feelings that photos like those used to cause you. But by then, you'll feel so certain about what that picture represents.

Katy Reddin grew up in Dallas, TX, but has since become an east coast convert. She earned a Bachelor's degree from The University of Virginia, and then decided to take a victory lap the next year, leaving after having earned her Master's degree in English. She now works in Corporate PR at one of the top five public relations firms in Manhattan, where being on all forms of social networking at work (at once) is luckily a part of her job.

This post originally appeared on The Daily Muse.

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