Blooming on the Brink of New Beginnings

A memoir of my growing pains throughout my time at Bronx Science.


Arianne Browne

A white cherry blossom in the Bronx Science courtyard.

This piece is dedicated to every love of my life, including those who have yet to behold the person I have yet to be. 

“These will be the fastest four years of your life,” I remember my high school teachers saying. But I just couldn’t wrap my head around the thought that four whole years — the most transitionary period of my life — could ever seem so fleeting. Yet here I was, a senior preparing to say her goodbyes to all of the friends and memories housed by these taupe tile walls. 

It’s funny how time can be so paradoxical: four years blending into mere minutes, days dragging on for years at a time.

[Preparing the Soil]

The day I got my high school acceptance letter was nothing short of one filled with anxious excitement and anticipation. The principal of my tiny K-8 school called me into her office at exactly 2:30 pm, after the school day had already ended; she didn’t want us to be distracted in class or to compare scores to one another, which I’m rather grateful for in hindsight. 

As I nervously traipsed in, the assistant principal offered up a drum roll on her little wooden desk and told me not to look at the letter until I got home. Naturally, I couldn’t wait longer for news that had overrun my mind for the last five months. I recall asking my math teacher what score I got, as I knew she was one of the first to get the news; I wasn’t sure if I even got over a 200 (out of 800 possible points on the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test).

[Planting the Seeds]

Though I’m sure we can all guess which specialized high school I got into, I’d still like to reminisce on how I found out. One of my best friends, Shormi Anwar (who’s now a sophomore here at Bronx Science) snatched the letter right out of my hands. I suppose you can imagine the screaming that ensued as we found out I got into Bronx Science, even after I’d doubted myself the whole time. Suddenly, I was leaving the warmth of familiarity and walking into the flurries of the unknown.

Looking back, this life-changing moment seemed to bring others more joy than it brought me. 

I spent the majority of my time here at Bronx Science believing that I absolutely, without a doubt, did not belong. I thought I wasn’t smart enough to keep up with my peers, and I certainly didn’t deserve my place here as much as they did. They worked harder, knew more, and were far faster than I was. In short, I simply didn’t belong.

[A Glimpse of Sunlight]

That perspective took a toll on me in just about every aspect of my life, from the way I looked at myself in the mirror with strangers’ eyes to all the doubt I’d let creep in. I’d been internalizing thoughts that did not belong to me and could never serve me; somehow, maturing meant finding strength in who I am and believing that I’m worthy of every success, deserving of every breath I take.

Paromita Talukder ’22 believes it’s important to ground yourself through nature in a fast-paced city like ours. (Arianne Browne)

So, I embarked on a journey — one of self discovery, acceptance, and healing. I didn’t begin, though, with the hopes of getting to know myself deeply, to find the strength within myself that I once thought futile; rather, I looked to my mother and brother and thought of how unfair it was that I got to take up space in their world. Somehow I found myself to be undeserving of anything “good” — compassion and friendship alike; they deserved someone I wasn’t, simply because I deemed myself a burden. I’d held my mistakes in higher regard than the good intentions I possessed, and decided that I was defined by what others thought of me.

I sat today with my little brother talking about what he was so upset about, and I was faced with that idea again; he held himself in contempt, buried beneath the mistakes of the past. It surprised me that he felt the pain I was also dealing with, as I’d always wished better for him than experiencing what I have. Despite having not been the older sister I wish I could’ve been for him in the past, I can change that by offering him the benefit of solidarity. Compassion, guidance, and a listening ear are the best of what I can offer. It’s one thing to acknowledge that someone deserves better than what you can give to them, but something entirely different to actually BE better. I think that’s the cornerstone of emotional growth. In an attempt to lift some of the weight off him, I told him how he should try to forgive himself for what he cannot change.

 I sit here today humbly grateful for every opportunity and every accomplishment, mourning the version of myself from the past who didn’t get the chance to feel this way. I started recognizing the limits that had been placed on me and how I could unwire them from within. Now, being surrounded by the true family I’ve built in my friends here at Bronx Science, I’ve never been more thankful for and inspired by such compassion in the face of difficulty, transition, and competition. They say “goodbyes are bittersweet,” and this one is no different, though I’m rather excited to see where life takes us, excited to see the people we become.

[A Sprinkling of Rain]

High school has been more of a journey than I could’ve ever imagined. As cliché as it might sound, I’ve grown and changed so much these past four years that it almost feels like a rite of passage. I hope my fellow graduated seniors (and underclassmen) can relate to my experience here and find comfort in seeing how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go. 

Fourteen-year-old me started this journey anxious and consumed by “imposter syndrome,” a feeling that I still haven’t shaken completely . I was so scared to talk to others — so unsure of myself — especially at such a huge school when I came from a class of six in middle school.

Paromita Talukder ’22 finds it fascinating how the color of hydrangeas changes due to the pH level of the soil. (Arianne Browne)

I suppose I’ve broadened my outlook on life — or the space I occupy here at Bronx Science — and I’ve learned that this feeling of “unbelonging” wasn’t one that I needed to hide from. Perhaps I didn’t need to worry about looking the part (looking as though I knew what I was doing, looking put together, looking like my peers) as much as I needed to feel the part. All that time spent trying to “fit in” when I would’ve been better off looking inwards and feeling confident in and of myself. I think I was naïve enough to believe I could put my emotions on some sort of “back burner” and put fulfilling expectations on the forefront.

Shormi Anwar ’24, having come from the same school as I did, battles the same fears at a much faster pace. She said, “I think the long commute to Bronx Science kind of shaped me in a way. It taught me how to be okay with being alone. I think knowing that ‘being alone is perfectly fine’ is an important life skill because you won’t always be surrounded by your loved ones.” 

How peaceful it must be to feel so safe and secure in your OWN arms, knowing how complete you are in and of yourself. Perhaps being alone makes us feel unsafe because we can’t trust ourselves to be enough — not enough to keep ourselves safe and certainly not enough to quiet the noise within ourselves; and maybe loneliness isn’t the enemy. To be alone when surrounded by others is one thing, but to be entirely alone when you’re with yourself is a much more painful endeavor; but regardless of how frightening and impossible it might feel, self-love is truly the most unconditional of them all.

That being said, I decided that it was time to take up some space here at Bronx Science. I wanted to become more and more involved in the school community, so I ran for Student Senate and even spent my fifteenth birthday writing an essay to see if I’d qualify for the school newspaper. This was one of the best decisions of my life, I think, as I was able to connect with so many people that I was too scared to approach before; I learned so much from their experiences about how we aren’t so different after all. The intimidation I felt regarding the uncertainty of my future and the confusion surrounding my past, was thankfully not a lone one, and it took me having to take a step out of my own head and into that of my peers to fully realize this.

Girard’s crimson azaleas photographed on a walk home. (Arianne Browne)

High school began with a younger (in more ways than one) version of myself that was entirely unsure — unsure of herself, unsure of her place in this school, unsure of her capacity to keep up with others, and unsure of her ability to fit in. And, yet, a simple “Hey, can I sit here?” changed most of that. One friend led to two, and suddenly I grew less intimidated by my classmates and started participating more in class. 

Arifa Tasmiya ’22 captured the essence of this idea and said, “I think I’ve really changed as a person in the four years that have passed. I’m a lot more talkative now, and I’ve befriended so many people that I would’ve never imagined being friends with before. I talk more in class too.” She added that “I feel more seen as a person, and it’s made me happier overall, which is something a lot of my friends have recognized too.” 

I find it so wholesome that opening yourself up to positive relationships can impact your life in such a beautiful way; to believe that there are people who care so much about you,  who are overjoyed to see you, without expectation, is the epitome of a worthwhile pursuit. Perhaps they see us for our character rather than all the negativity that has been siphoned into us. But, guiding ourselves through our old ways of thinking and adapting to a more hopeful perspective comes with its ups and downs. As important as it is to surround yourself with a loving support system, it’s even more important to accept that love: to tell others how to best be there for you, to let yourself take up space in this world, and to express your emotions even if they aren’t always positive ones. 

I’ve lost quite a few people on this journey, and I don’t think there’s any number of words that can fully describe the way that that hurts. But, here are some that try: in the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson in his poem In Memoriam, ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” and perhaps truer words were never spoken. I hate the idea of saying I “loved” someone because, no matter the bridge burned and the soot left on my hands, that love never ran out and our flowers never wilted. Today, I know I wasn’t strong — today I know I didn’t eat, I didn’t get out of bed, and I didn’t try to make amends, but pride shouldn’t be a cinch in the waist of my empathy, even for myself; mere months ago, I would’ve been far harsher on myself for not being “strong,” for not being the very best of what I know I have the capacity to be. But today, I gave myself the grace to grieve what was and honor the best parts of what isn’t, because inspiration and love still hold the same despite the circumstances of love turned to fire. “I loved the weight I had to bear, because it needed help of Love.”

Perhaps there’s a different kind of strength found in not being strong. Getting out of bed every day, eating a bite of something small, doing an assignment, or even having hope for a brighter tomorrow are the truest testaments of strength. An ant hill to one is a mountain to another; and maybe it’s not about how perilous your battle might appear to others or even yourself because you don’t need to prove to anyone — especially yourself — what you already are. 

Lavender queen rhododendron (Sean Harilall)

What if strength was found in our ability to be weak? What if strength was allowing yourself to melt into the shadows of your covers and then getting up again to show your face to the sun? What if strength was recognizing that you can’t do it all alone and letting yourself rely on others? What if strength was found in walking towards the fire and feeling the warmth on your hands? Give yourself the freedom to acknowledge and explore your pain and hurt and know that it won’t last forever. Embrace the impermanence of life as it offers the promise of a different tomorrow — a brighter one. 

In the words of Shormi Anwar, “How can I grow if I don’t allow myself to blossom?

By October of my sophomore year, I attended an open house for the school where I spoke to students preparing to take the SHSAT and their parents, and I wasn’t nervous in the slightest. In fact, I ran into my Spanish teacher from the year before, and she spared no time telling me how shocked and proud she was of the confidence I had gained since I saw her last.  

Around this same time, I began getting asked about the course of my life — where I wanted to go to college, who I wanted to be, and what my passions were. As I’m sure you can imagine, these were not easy questions to answer, and I wasn’t able to for years. I was shocked. I was confused. Somehow it felt as if I’d swallowed a sword each time I was confronted with these questions, and coiled deep inside me was a bubble waiting to be popped — one that would reveal all the answers.

One fell swoop and the sword burst the bubble. 

I’d been leading the life laid out for me by others; I hadn’t been living a life true to myself, and I had no clue what I wanted. All I knew was what others expected of me. I hadn’t made a big decision for myself by that point. Now, suddenly, people were expecting me to plan out my entire  future, as if I’d ever had much say in what I did; I stayed confused and unsure for quite some time until this year.

Roses are my mother’s favorite flower. (Arianne Browne)

I’ve been waiting for the moment when my life would change forever — every pain, every hurt, every unanswered question, every unrequited love would melt away — that I would fall so deeply in love with myself. I’d reach out to the world and feel myself pick the flowers, to feel the sun upon my face, to smile up at the sky, to twirl in the rain, and feel a love I have not yet known.  Too silly of me to assume the acquiescence of happiness and love would unfurl themselves before me, as though they are a prize desperate to befall the less fortunate.

I’d expected to wake up and be changed — to be the person I could only dream of being, to wake up and lead an entirely different life — but perhaps I strayed towards my destination and lost myself in the pursuit. Humbled now, before my heart, I yearn for the girl that dreamed instead of being. I hope to show her, and those all too like her, the time and effort I hope to put into building a safe haven for my heart and mind within myself, and find the beauty within myself each and every day, rather than waiting for beauty to befall me without question. Perhaps true beauty unveils itself before those who would rather find it than be fortunately blessed. 

Now, I aim to take my life by the reins and decide for myself the direction I travel in, to fulfill my own aspirations, and not the expectations of others. In discovering what my strength means to me, I am reminded of William Ernest Henley’s Invictus, in which he describes not succumbing to the toils and troubles of life, and instead believing in the unwavering endurance we possess. “I thank whatever gods may be/ For my unconquerable soul.” 

I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” As I navigate living for myself, I’ve learned that I’m no less worthy of those around me, and that the strength it takes to walk this path is perhaps incomparable to any other. 

[The Roots Grow Deeper]

Lobularia maritima
and purple creeping bell flowers found on a walk to a friend’s house! (Arianne Browne)

I sat in second period one morning earlier this year, in one of my favorite classes — Journalism. I was writing a piece for the newspaper and realized that I was happiest while I was writing.

Suddenly it all made sense. I looked back to when I was just eight years old, typing away on my grandfather’s little typewriter. One of the first “articles” I’d written was about how the American education system needed to be reformed (yes, I know I was a pretentious little eight year old!), and it clicked that this is my passion: turning my inspiration into the musicality of change. I never thought I was good enough to make a real difference in this world or that anyone would care about what I had to say. But through writing, I’ve learned that I have a voice that resonates with others, and they deserve to know that we aren’t as alone as we believe.

Even now, as I’m headed somewhere I’d never imagined myself going — to the Stern School of Business at New York University — I hope my words have an impact and that I can help to “be the change I wish to see in the world,” as my mother often tells me I should be. But, I want to offer more to the world than just “change;” I find it to be rather lacking in both specificity and compassion to impart change upon others without offering care and guidance along with it.

I rang in my 18th birthday at a little diner in the city. It didn’t quite feel like a birthday, as I’d made the same mistake as I do every March 6th in thinking that I’d be a whole new person at the stroke of midnight. Surprise, surprise, I was still myself. I know, shocker of the century. But, as my mother, her close friend Esther, and I peered over the menu, a quiet chatter about nothing important filled the silence. Our conversation took a turn though and Esther said that we don’t have to be the product of our environments. I didn’t quite understand this sentiment, but the words were left rattling around in my brain since then. 

I used to think that the trajectory of my life was limited by what I saw around me, and one day I’d wake up and be just the same, limited by my experiences and even my own mind. I’m now learning to free myself and those around me from my own expectations, in the hopes that we can just be, without restriction. Those words somehow changed my whole perspective on life, and I find it quite funny how words mentioned in passing could mean so much to me. 

[Reaching for the Sun]

The head and the heart were met and married in the chapels of our bodies, and so with that were birthed conflicts that I cannot dream of committing to paper (or rather, to screen). Perhaps these conflicts stem from the notion that we must choose between being led by the heart or the mind, though I find it to be a betrayal to choose thought over feeling, presuming one to be inherently more rational and “worthy” than the other.

Eastern redbud trees seen from the stoops of a Brooklyn apartment. (Arianne Browne)

Personal experience has taught me that neither one can promise the “rationality” and sense we crave, but herein lies the crossroads: the perplexities of the mind are somehow beautiful yet terrifying and emotion draws but confusion and discomfort.

I suppose time and growth have opened my eyes to my purpose in life: to stand between the crossroads of thought and emotion. Today I am reminded of the remarkable work of Robert Frost, particularly his poem, The Road Not Taken. Where two roads diverge, we don’t need to wonder what would’ve happened had we chosen one path (be that thought or emotion) over another. I used to find myself swept up in what could’ve been, misguided by old feelings, and lost sight of the here and now. 

Rather, I think we’re meant to follow the fine line between the two paths, merging “rational” decisions with the carefree warmth of dancing among the flowers and finding hope in the uncertainty. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I-/ I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.” I’m learning now that maybe there is no ideal destination and that the paths you forge will forever be a part of you that you should recognize and accept. Perhaps it’s less about the happiness we finally get to feel, and rather about the pursuit of it and our passion in reaching for it. 


High school is such a transformative period in our lives, as we’re at an age of great change. We start this journey as children and end it as young adults, marked by the experiences and choices that have come to shape our core values. I find myself wondering if it was all worth it, but I know that every struggle is met with a moment of warmth and satisfaction in the wake of endurance.

In the beautifully insightful words of Tasmia Afrin ’23, “I have learned to not give up over and over again because I am determined to start my own journey.” It can often make us feel as though we’ve failed somehow by abandoning what we’ve poured so much of ourselves into, but it is better to have tried and know what’s not for you than to have never tried at all. Of Tasmia’s growth from her ninth grade year to now, she said “I was very naïve about dreams and possibilities; I believed that just hard work and passion will get me places without giving regard to obstacles that may break me along the way. However, through the years — even during my lowest — I realized that I have to pick myself up because this school taught me that I have surrounded myself with people and ambitions that will not abandon me. Above all, I learned that it is never too late to begin again.”

Tulips seen hidden behind a bush. (Arianne Browne)

By now, I’m sure we all know that change is inevitable and that life is subject to nothing but that. It’s only just recently that I’ve grown to accept that the perceived absence of “control,” in the wake of change, is what held me back from blooming into who I’m meant to be. In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself”— a phrase I hadn’t understood until now. Fearing what’s out of our control is a somewhat futile attempt at limiting our own growth as individuals in an ever-evolving world. 

Tasmiya went on to say, “I’ve done a lot of things that I never imagined myself doing before. And of course not everything has gone well, but I think I’ve accepted them for what they are more than I would have in the past, because at the end of the day, my ups outweigh my downs.”

And, while I’m definitely not the most confident person in the school, I’m proud of the self-trust, and therefore the confidence, I’ve gained. I’m also proud of all the close friendships I’ve been able to build, even more so of the one I’m currently building with myself. Being newly eighteen has offered me a little more insight, and though I may still be young, I think it’s important to recognize that we can all offer unique specks of advice to one another, regardless of our ages. I find that our experiences and what we learn from them characterize our growth far more than the physical years that pass us by. 

Even so, our experiences are so painfully paradoxical, unique in our hearts yet somehow all the same; Everyone’s perspective of the world develops differently, and when we open ourselves up to new ones, we find the ability to measure the worth of a single word. I find it almost funny how a single sentence can shift our view of ourselves and the world around us. I hope you all know that your reality isn’t defined by the validation it receives from others; who you are is someone learning to blossom in the spring of acceptance despite adversity.

An eastern redbud tree in blooming seen on a walk through the park. (Arianne Browne)

When I was a child, and people asked me who or what I aspired to be, I’d think of a flower — so at peace and free, yet enduring all the rain and storm. I’d forgotten all about that aspiration for a while as I lost touch with who I really am, until recently when I began searching for the beauty and purpose of my life, and somehow flowers came back to me. How strong a tree or stalk can be, a new flower blooming each day; an outward display of all the storm it has weathered, the pain and destruction it has faced, standing tall and proud in itself despite all this. I think this reminds me of people — each new flower we allow to bloom is an outward reflection of our hardships, our rain and storm, blossoming into petals with hopeful intent. It’s an example of a full circle moment of mine to realize that every flower has a meaning that’s waiting to be found.

I think one of the most delightful phrases I’ve ever heard is “Who you are isn’t done yet. It’s hard not knowing who you are, and it might kill you to feel so empty and alone inside, but we’re all just picking the flowers of who we are now and are forming the bouquet of who we have yet to become.” Hearing this at a time I felt so uncomfortably alone and lost really changed my outlook on life. What I’ve learned since then is that we don’t need to get swept up yearning for control, knowing everything about ourselves and the direction of our lives. We’re allowed to not know, to abandon the need for all-knowing and have that be the most exciting part of life — how exciting it must be to find a new flower each day, cherishing each one until a beautifully unique bouquet is built. 

When I was a child, and people asked me who or what I aspired to be, I’d think of a flower — so at peace and free, yet enduring all the rain and storm. I’d forgotten all about that aspiration for a while as I lost touch with who I really am, until recently when I began searching for the beauty and purpose of my life, and somehow flowers came back to me.