There is always a double-edged sword in anything, including being a PTNK-er. Nothing is too good to be true, and almost nothing is so bad that it can’t be fixed.
Getting into a good or bad high school can hardly mean anything, but in a Vietnamese education system that is what all students are about: we have to be prepared for the best and worst. An entrance exam means so much that we didn’t want to risk it, until years later it became so small an occasion that we ridiculed ourselves. Summer 2016 when I was getting out of the straight line of my life and turning into a distant world of PTNK, I didn’t know what to prepare for.
Being a PTNK-er means carrying a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I have found a part of me that is capable of reaching higher than what others say I can. A part of me that now plucks up the courage to dream big and be big. A part of me that is ready to work hard and play hard and be responsible, just as how we were taught as a PTNK-er.
On the other hand, from the moment I stepped into PTNK, I have assumed the path to achievements is lack of failure, because around me all and all everyone seems to get it at first hit, to do so much and gain so much, to live in a false reality that goes, “I am already worthy of the best without even trying to get there.” Being at PTNK deludes me of what real life has to offer: that one can be left with no job and money and relational support and one will eventually still make it.
PTNK is a dream in which we all are a part of a community that cares, that loves, that accepts, that supports, that lifts each other up. Yet, I have seen many people who trapped themselves into this title, PTNK-er, that they forget how to connect in college, to befriend those who contradict, or to accept failure as part of a journey. A dream that can drown one from life.
I have dreamed to be back. I love my friends even when we are not at PTNK, but I do dream to be back to the old times, to lay down on the 7th-floor balcony and applaud the blue clear sky above us, to spend lunch-time talking about life and decisions and family and love, to sit in class with a pair of confused eyes begging the teacher to speak Vietnamese, not Math or Physics or Chemistry or any languages that hardly make any sense. This is a dream one doesn’t dare to forget, but one can be brave to leave it behind and move on. And I will move on.