Creating A New View – Inspiration Friday

First, a random story from my youth:  When I was in fourth grade, I decided that I wanted to become a professional principal clarinet in a maj0r symphony orchestra and play Carnegie Hall, which replaced my previous choice of criminal defense attorney which I decided on after I somehow (without my parents knowledge) got my hands on a copy of F. Lee Bailey’s The Defense Never Rests in second grade.

The problem for my fourth grade self was that my school didn’t offer band until 5th grade, so I had to satisfy myself with practicing my plastic recorder for hours on end (sorry mom!) Finally fifth grade came and I was in business. After years of practicing for hours almost every day (sorry mom!) I was in high school learning my college audition pieces and I was hitting an angsty phase.  We had moved to a tiny town with a tiny school and a tiny band. My band director was bitter and uninspired and did things like unsuccessfully trying to prevent me from trying out for All State Band because I was a freshman (which didn’t stop him from bragging to everyone that I was his student when I made it – screw you buddy.) My desire to practice was waning with my angst and I spent a lot of time throwing myself on my bed and listening to sad music (James Taylor’s song “Never Die Young” got a lot of play.)  I also realized that not practicing was not going to  get me my goal.

About that time I saw someone wearing a shirt that said “If you don’t practice, you don’t deserve to dream.”  I had some free time and access to the elementary school teacher’s lounge (our school was so small that k-12 were housed in the same building and we were without an elementary school music teacher so I was teaching music to the k-3 students) so I punched out the letters, pulled a big piece of butcher paper off the industrial roll, and made myself a decidedly home-job-looking sign that said “If you don’t practice you don’t deserve to dream” I hung it on the ceiling over my bed.  I would poutflop onto the bed getting ready to fire up some James Taylor, then see the sign and immediately get up and start practicing.

I told you that story to tell you this one: Fast forward to a few weeks ago.  I’ve matured beyond the idea that you have to do anything to deserve to dream, but I am struggling with motivation and on a day when I was very much not wanting to go workout I shared the story above with my partner Julianne.  I told her that maybe I should just hang an m-dot (the IRONMAN symbol) on the ceiling above the bed.

Imagine my surprise when a package arrived for me from Staples. She had two posters designed and printed for me (even using my very favorite – pink argyle.)  Now when I look up from the bed, or look to the side, I get a decidedly not-home-job reminder of my goal and a boost to my motivation.

I find that having little (and big!) bits of inspiration around the house really helps keep me focused on my goals, so I’m enjoying going to sleep and waking up to my new view. As always I’d love for you to leave a comment about what inspires you!


The view looking up



The view looking to the side


Perhaps you’ve noticed that I am not a professional principal clarinet and you’re wondering what happened. Here’s the rest of the story:

I  went to college on scholarship as a music performance major where I got to study with my first choice professor. I dream that was over a decade in the making came true when I played Carnegie Hall with the University of Texas Wind Ensemble. I also realized some harsh realities about being a professional clarinet player, including the fact that I would likely not control where I lived, and that I could end up in an orchestra that was dedicated to playing music that I didn’t like, and that I would likely have to supplement my income by teaching – I didn’t like teaching clarinet and I didn’t want to end up bitter and discouraging like my high school band director.

So I scheduled my required Junior Recital.  I played two of my favorite pieces and one piece that I had always struggled with horribly.  When it was over my amazing friends threw flowers from the audience as I took my final bow. I walked back stage, cried as I took my clarinet apart for the last time, and I then I walked out of the UT School of Music and away from a dream I had pursued relentlessly for 12 of my 20 years of life. (I had decided that I wouldn’t be able to practice enough to play well and that I didn’t want to play badly.) I got an A for the recital. I’ve never picked up a clarinet again and I don’t regret the time that I spent or my choice to walk away. All my thanks to Mr. Davis (the elementary band director who always supported me,) Gregory Young at MSU (who took me on as a student when I was in high school and helped me get into college,)  Richard MacDowell (who made me into the best clarinet player that I could be) and to my mom for fighting with my high school band director and listening to all those hours of practice!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff!

Check out my sponsor!  More of Me to Love (a company that sells stuff – from practical to inspirational – for people who are fat and people of all sizes who are involved in Size Acceptance, Body Positivity, and Health at Every Size,) have always been super supportive of my work, and now they’ve created a group of awesome products, a portion of the profits from which will help fund my IRONMAN journey – you can check it out here (it’s worth it just to see the awesome fat triathlete logo they created!) Thanks MOMTL!

IRONMAN Sale:  I’m having an ongoing sale on my books,  DVDs and downloads to help pay for my IM – you get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! To check it out, you can go to No money?  No problem!  If you feel like it, you can leave a comment or send me an e-mail ( saying something encouraging, that’s incredibly helpful as well!

If you have questions about my IRONMAN journey  the FAQ might help!

If you’re looking for a place to talk about fitness from a weight neutral perspective, check out the Fit Fatties Forum. and the Fit Fatties Facebook page.

Book Me!  I’m a professional speaker and I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!




About danceswithfat

Hi, I’m Ragen Chastain. Speaker, Writer, Dancer, Choreographer, Marathoner, Soon to be IRONMAN, Activist, Fat Person.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Creating A New View – Inspiration Friday

  1. DennyTriMoney says:

    Your epilogue actually brought a big tear to my eye. Very moving and such a universal experience to walk away from the things that we truly love in order to grow as people.

    Far be it for be to tell you what to do but if you were to incorporate that into a speech you wouldn’t have a dry eye in the house,


  2. lsstrout says:

    I’m a fan of the little steps add up to a big goal philosophy. One shared by Unfuck Your Habitat (my favorite cleaning site) and Wishcraft, a book on dreaming and achieving your dreams.

    I tend to get overwhelmed with the big picture, so reminders that I need to do multiple things to get to a goal keeps it manageable and then I only have to do that first step.


  3. k8heron says:

    Firstly, Julianne is a keeper! Secondly, I loved this story so very much.


  4. Ohhhh Julianne is SO awesome. Wow. I love the pink argyle IM logo and the IronRagen at the bottom! You guys win in the partner category.

    Secondly, as a fellow former clarinet player, this blog entry made me realize that there were more options to professional life as a clarinet player besides Klezmer or Polka band member (I just followed my older sister’s footsteps like most younger siblings when it came to choosing the instrument I would play in band – I should’ve picked the drums).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s