I’m thirty-four years older than Dylan, but he’s the far better bike rider. He rides in a naturally athletic standing position most of the time, and at the nearby dirt track he looks like a miniature version of the big boys in their BMX suits, his legs easily adjusting to take the hills and jumps like a jockey on a galloping horse. Dylan can spend hours by himself on his bike, popping wheelies off the end of the driveway and practicing his ability to lay down a strip of black from his tire when he comes to a screeching, nerve-wracking, perfectly-timed halt millimeters in front of some immovable object.

In comparison, Riley rides with his butt glued to the seat, his entire body held rigid. He does not quite give off an air of grim concentration, but it’s close — he enjoys riding, but he never loses himself in the sheer joy of it like Dylan does. You can see the effort it takes him to steel up his nerves before the first little jump at the track, as though he’s flinching his way into it. “Oh crap, here it comes again,” Riley’s brain seems to be saying. Meanwhile, Dylan’s brain is clearly replaying every Red Bull video he’s ever begged to watch on YouTube.

Riley is more cautious where Dylan tends to barrel forward with total abandonment. But Dylan is enormously shy, so much so that he can’t respond if a stranger says hello to him. Riley chatters to anyone who’ll listen, to the point where he sometimes reminds me of that character on Kids in the Hall: “Onions is all I eat!”

Dylan likes jigsaw puzzles, while Riley’s never lost his Lego obsession. Riley would sit saucer-eyed in front of the television all day if you’d let him, Dylan gets bored and wanders away after fifteen minutes or so. Riley loves to draw, Dylan has exactly zero use for crayons and pens.

I sometimes worry about how Dylan will do in kindergarten next fall. His ridiculously short attention span, his utter disinterest in making friends … what will it be like for him to sit in a classroom for hours at a time? Then again, I sometimes worry about sensitive, inflexible Riley, and whether he’ll be bullied or picked on.

I remember when I first learned we were having another boy, and how I felt a helpless pang of sorrow over the fact that I would never have a daughter. Part of me thought, stupidly, But I DID this already! I wanted a *different* experience!

How foolish, right? And yet five years later, I’m still somehow amazed on a daily basis that two boys raised in the same house who are only two and a half years apart can be so wildly, magnificently different from each other.

In January I published a somewhat incoherent post about being unsure about what I’m doing and where I’m going and how to get there. In response I heard from a reader named Erin who runs Magnolia Workshop, and she offered me one of her personal coaching services to help unravel some of my internal murk and career floundering.

Now, I’m gonna be honest here: “free life coaching session” sounded a lot like “free root canal” to me. As in, I’m sure it’s technically good for you but that’s what they say about kale and that stuff tastes like total bullshit so no thanks, okay?

But Erin was so nice and reassuring in our initial email conversations, I quickly found myself warming to the idea. Even when she said it would involve a couple phone calls, which freaked me out because GAH PHONE CALLS. (I know: a blogger with a self-declared phone phobia. How original.)

Anyway, here’s the deal — I’m going to tell you a little about my experience working with Erin, and I’m going to share the special discounted price she’s offering you guys. I want to be up front that this is technically what you’d call a sponsored post, but it’s really unlike anything I’ve ever done before.

The session we chose to do together is her Ready, Set, Grow! program. She describes it as “for those who want to take a close look at where they are and begin to make a plan for their future,” and it’s essentially a two-hour session that’s intended to help you prioritize your values, assess your current situation, and start building a roadmap.

That’s a crap-ton to get into two hours, right? It actually encompassed a lot more than that on my end. She started by sending over a couple documents for me to fill out, and I dithered over these FOREVER. It’s tough work to be honest about what motivates you, what’s holding you back, and what values are most important to you. It’s even tougher to share this information over the phone — but Erin was incredibly kind, gentle, and astoundingly capable of translating my occasional (frequent?) inarticulate-ness.

We had two different calls, each lasting about an hour. After our first call, I wrote to her,

Did you ever read Stephen King’s Firestarter? In the book the main character has the ability to influence people’s minds (it’s his daughter who can set fires), but when he does so there are these occasional unintended consequences where the victim ends up fixating on certain subjects which sends them into self-destructive feedback loops. He calls it an “ricochet,” I think. Anyway, it’s awful because people end up doing things like sticking their hands down dish disposals because they can’t stop thinking about holes, but my point here is that I thought of the ricochet — uh, in a POSITIVE way — when I kept thinking of certain things we discussed and your gentle suggestions.

Hm. That was a terrible comparison. My point here is that ideas have been bouncing around in my head in a good way, and I thank you for that.

Okay, so what I actually MEANT by that — jesus, I’m a dork — is that many of the things she said to me really made a lasting impact. Erin isn’t about telling you what to do, her skill lies in helping you figure things out for yourself. For instance, in one of our discussions she asked all the right questions to lead me from “I feel invisible, everything I do is impermanent, I worry that I have no impact on anything” to the realization that deep down, what I long for isn’t really recognition or even being praised, it’s feeling ACKNOWLEDGED.

Erin put it like this, “I see you and you see me.” It sounds so simple, and yet that’s exactly it. I want to connect. I want to be heard. I want to know that the things I write mean something to someone. How do I get that? By writing things that mean something to me. By digging deeper to gut out my most real voice, the one I want you to hear. Prioritizing the jobs that allow me to do that. Carving out the space to write here more often, where I can always speak from the heart and I never have to write about Justin Bieber if I don’t want to.

So that was one thing, but we talked about lots of things. About how to improve my work/family balance during these last months while Dylan’s at home with me, ways to get back on the wagon with regards to health and fitness, and some next-step actions for my writing career.

What I would tell you about working with Erin is that there is incredible value in having someone help you completely focus on yourself. I mean, when’s the last time you really did that for more than a distracted minute or two? I feel like we’re so inundated these days with Pinterest-esque life lists and advice for prettifying every superficial aspect of our existence — and in comparison, what Erin offers is a chance to roll up your sleeves, toss out the design blog bullshit, and delve into figuring out what’s really going to make you more fulfilled. Plus, she’s warm, funny, and extremely easy to talk to.

Some of the things we talked about have already made a difference in the choices I’ve made since. Accepting a super-intimidating invitation for the sake of focusing on my value of adventure and getting outside my comfort zone, for instance.

Erin charges $149 for her Ready, Set, Grow! program, and at that price I honestly think it’s a steal. However, for the first five of you that sign up between now and April 15th, Erin’s offering the service at $99. You can contact her at erin@magnoliaworkshop.com to take her up on the special price.

I truly recommend checking out what she does, and I’m enormously grateful that she reached out to me. If you have any questions at all, hit me up in the comments — or if you’d like to email me privately, you can do so at sundry@gmail.com.

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