I like to follow rules. Follow instructions. Because it’s safe. I believe it may even be why I started this 35/35 Project. I once again had a “plan.” A way things needed to go. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so out of control. I knew what to do. I even had date coaches like Jess McCann, Dave Elliott, Jeffrey Platts and Michelle Ezra Jacoby telling me how to do it. I had structure. So I approached Date 35 with mixed feelings. I was feeling happy at having “met my goal.” I was sad that such a fabulous experience was coming to an end. And I was a little bit scared at what was to come now that it was all ending.
It was fitting that date 35 was James. I’ve known James for about two years. And James was there for me in the days following the end of my relationship with Aces. He’d call and check on me. Offered use of his lake house so I could get away by myself. He would provide support and encouragement. It was only right that he be there for me on the other side of it all.
I couldn’t have picked a more fitting “last date” for the 35/35 Project than what James selected. James is a jeweler. For our date, I met him at one of his stores, Jewelers Warehouse USA, located in Silver Spring, MD. He took me in the back of the store and I saw, written on a white board, our “task” for the evening. We were going to create a charm bracelet and I was going to create 35 links – one specific for each of the 35 dates, based on their personalities and our experiences.
He had me think about each date. The individuals, their personalities and also the experiences we shared. James then had me assign a shape, and a design, to each date based on the feelings I experienced as I recounted each one. This was more difficult than I imagined. I found it hard to create a visual representation of my internal feelings. So much had happened. Even so much that hasn’t, yet, made it into this blog. How could I capture the elaborate images and feelings, in simple, medal, wire charms?
But James helped me focus. He started talking about the art of jewelry making. The first step, is to be an apprentice. Follow instructions. By following instructions, you learn techniques. After practicing the techniques, you master the fundamentals. Once you have the fundamentals mastered, you have the confidence to get creative. That’s when your work becomes unique. And uniqueness makes your product stand out from the crowd. And get noticed, even in a large sea of competition. Tonight was simply about following the instructions and beginning to learn the basic techniques. Soon, I had 35 charms laid out in front of me.
After we had finished the bracelet, we headed to James’ new restaurant, Azteca Cantina in College Park, MD. If you can’t tell, James is a true entrepreneur. He has a dream and he sees it through. And he works hard for the results. James has been working on opening this restaurant almost the entire time I’ve known him. To actually see his vision become a reality, was an inspiration. And true to his philosophy for life, our date was going to be no different. Tonight, we were going to work for our supper!
He slapped an apron on me, grabbed my hand and we disappeared into the kitchen where I learned a few secrets on how to make some fabulous fish tacos! With our meal prepared, we found a quiet table and capped off the 35/35 Project with some very tasty margaritas. I’ve always been awed by James’ ability to make his life happen. But as we talked, he helped me see the 35/35 Project, and myself, through his eyes. For a moment, it was as if I was on the outside looking in. And I was able to see that I’m doing the same thing. While my relationships and life can’t be scripted, I have learned how to be an active participant. How to make my life happen for me, instead of allowing it to happen to me.
When I got home, I looked at the photo I had taken of the charms. All so basic, simple but very meaningful. Then it hit me. The 35/35 Project was my apprenticeship. The dating coaches, my readers and, even more importantly, the dates themselves, taught me so many lessons. And those lessons helped me develop certain skills and techniques. Which have allowed me to understand the fundamentals. And because of this, I can now build, creatively. Continue to push myself out of my comfort zone. Be unique. Stand out.
Date 35 may have marked the end of the 35/35 Project, but this is only the beginning of Rita’s Quest. I’ve simply developed what I needed in order to make my life happen. The next phase is it actually HAPPENING. No blueprint. No set plan. No real structure. But there is such creativity brewing and so many things that will result. And I hope you stay with me through it all! Because what is next, isn’t just my quest. It’s one that will help us all to become unique and to stand out, among a sea of competition. We can all make our life happen. Sometimes, you just need a foundation and some strong support!