I am a paranoid guy. But my paranoia borders on a potential disorder. I am paranoid about things that might not even happen. For example, I always worry that I cannot do great work. My fear is not about failing, though. My concern is that someone will dig up something I said on my twitter feed that I can’t entirely agree with today. Is that rational? But when has fear been reasonable?

When I was in the ninth grade, the math teacher had left school, and a new teacher was appointed. All we knew about this new teacher was that she an elderly lady and was a religious person. Her thoughts were quite intense for the majority of us. A whole lot of us ended up disagreeing with her. But given the kids that we were, the entire disagreement ended up as our ‘hatred’ for her. She decided that the class had extremely poor fundamentals in math and just weren’t prepared to face competitive exams in the tenth grade. So, the entire of the academic holidays in the ninth grade was turned into a mandatory mathematics bridge course for us. Now given that we already hate the teacher, this was an unwelcome move.

The bridge course started with the absolute basics – number line, real and rational numbers, fractions. It went all the way up to matrices and determinants. If I sit back and think about it today, this was the best thing that happened to me. I’ll write another post on what actually made math my favourite subject. But the seeds for that to happen were definitely sown in this course. I, personally, went on to ace the math exams in the tenth grade. I did thank the teacher too, for her taking this step. But these are post facto. The actual tenth grade saw a lot of difference of opinions within the class.

The teacher had organized additional coaching sessions for kids who struggled through the bridge course. But as the year proceeded, a lot of the kids were getting added on that list. Towards the end of the grade, almost the entire class was part of the coaching session. There were 4 or 5 of us who did not. I didn’t because I consistently aced the course. Two others didn’t because they were teamed in a politically opposing camp of teachers. This caused a lot of arguments within us – an otherwise coherent gang of students.

Towards the end of the grade, the teacher gave out gifts for a few of us who did well in the class. This gift was a carefully selected poster with a personalized note from the teacher. Most of the recipients were people who were in her camp and attended her coaching classes. I was the only outsider to have received this honour. I’ll remember this very well because when she gave me the gift, she had only one thing to tell me – “Abishek, you are doing a great job and have a very bright future ahead. But the single biggest issue is that you are worried about things that probably will not even happen. It would help you a lot if you learnt not to worry until somethings happen.”

She was the first person in my life to identify my paranoia. I learnt that I play way too safe when my wife pointed this out. In fact, my wife was one of the people in the political opposition camp for the teacher in my tenth grade 🙂