Today I handed back assignments for the class I'm TAing. And, as expected, some people asked about their grades, whether it just be for points back or so they could do better next time. I've been through getting a bad grade before, and I remember it feeling like a ton of bricks. Heck, I remember when getting below 90% on anything felt like I had just been run over by the semi-truck of inadequacy. Growing up, our most distinctive family motto was never settle for mediocrity when perfection is available. I know.
But having gone through it doesn't mean it's easy to watch. There were no perfect scores, which meant that none of the 170-ish brilliant Ivy-league perfectionists were perfectly happy. And I was the one responsible; I was the one assigning points on somewhat arbitrary metrics like creativity, difficulty, and clarity. I did my best, but it's possible that the assignments I graded while eating lemon cream sorbet did better than the others.
I just wanted to tell them that the numbers don't matter. This is a small thing. Don't take it personally. It's okay not to be perfect. It's okay to do badly. It's okay to fail. Failure teaches us things that success can't. And being able to bounce back from bad performance is a skill. Employers like it when people can say I didn't do a good job, that was my fault, or here's what I did wrong. They like it when you can say here's what I can do better and then what's next? Everyone makes mistakes. You didn't lose a limb or a loved one; you were given yet another opportunity to learn.