I played volleyball for the first time in over two years tonight, in a local pick-up rec league here in Toronto. I did alright; most of my serves were in-bounds, I had some nice sets and I honed my "volley off the serve" technique in the middle of the back row. Initially I was a little apprehensive, as the friend with whom I went had gone the previous week and described how someone spiked her in the face and that some of these people are pretty hardcore. However, the level of competition was pretty much in my zone, and I held my own. My friend commented my game, and I responded with, "Well, I guess was solid enough, but not really spectacular in any way."
On the drive home I started thinking about how apt a description this is when applied to other skills I have. In my teaching, I think my students get a thorough understanding of the concepts and their applicability to a diverse set of situations, both real and theoretical... but they aren't doing crazy-ass catapult projects. In most sporting endeavours I can hold my own alright... but I'm not going to be hitting all the home runs or making all the 3-pointers. For playing musical instruments, I can play a decent set of drums or be a capable "campfire guitarist"... but I won't be putting Eddie Van Halen out of a job anytime soon.
I can put together Ikea furniture, but I'm no Norm Abram. I can explain General Relativity alright, but I'm no Chandrasekhar. I'm a pedophile,* but I'm no King of Pop.
So, in conclusion, I don't know what all this means, other than to suggest that, in a world preoccupied with flashy extravagance, it's easy to overlook the solid contributors to the group effort who get the job done but don't necessarily have peoples' jaws hitting the floor.
* I'm not a pedophile. Seriously.