Jewish Journal

Pitch Imperfect

by Cantor Rachel Goldman Neubauer

November 6, 2012 | 12:45 pm

In my experience, Beit T’Shuvah is the sort of community where it’s hard to fit in unless you are either aware of or are in the process of becoming aware of your dark horses and battling them.  And no, those dark horses do NOT need to include alcoholism of some sort (hopefully you have picked up on this from previous blog postings.)  However, since every human being has at least one demon that they struggle with, it’s actually a pretty easy community to become a member of—maybe the easiest and most inclusive of all—and your membership hinges only on your level of openness.  Since I am, first and foremost, a proud member of the Beit T’Shuvah community, I will introduce myself like this:

Hi my name is Rachel and I am a perfectionist (amongst other things, one of which being the acting cantor at Beit T’Shuvah).  How did I come to that conclusion, and why is that relevant to Beit T’Shuvah?  

I started singing at a very young age, and hit a professional level when I was only 11.  By the time I had finished high school, I was on a path to train to be an opera singer as a permanent career.  What had started out as an extracurricular hobby that made me smile turned into the end-all be-all purpose of my life by the time I hit college and declared myself a Vocal Performance major.   

There are so many aspects in the music world that are terrifying.  In the classical world, perfection is constantly sought after and applauded.  In the recording world, perfection is even electronically manufactured and therefore expected as a norm.  For me, when I took the hobby and passion that had grounded me and handed it over to this world of demanding perfection, I was completely unprepared.  Nothing could have more greatly demonstrated to me how un-whole I was.  The only thing I was aware of in my early college days was this: anything less than perfection made me feel unequivocally unworthy, and I was supposed to be ok with that.  As soon as things got even the slightest bit difficult, I started to drown.  My body and my mind could handle this constant striving to be perfect, but my spirit could not.  I thought it was my singing voice that was my curse and for many years had stopped singing altogether, but I now know that it was buying into this belief that was being shoved down my throat—this belief that, if I tried hard enough, I could be perfect. 

Letting go of this belief could very well have been as hard for me as it is for a junkie to kick heroin.  The thought of being perfect and chasing after its possibility is alluring, intoxicating, and incredibly addicting.  And it is just as false as the belief that drugs will make everything better.  Being in recovery from perfectionism, though, is just as rewarding to me as I witness any other recovery to be (and I get to witness a lot of recovery).   

Though music is back in my life, I no longer buy into perfectionism.  Instead, I put my stock into knowing that I am ok as I am, no matter what.  No longer do I have some impossible standard that I hold myself to or perceive others to expect of me.  And that, in my opinion, is also redemption.

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