Self Discoveries at the Berlin Wall

Berlin 2014 016

I had always imagined that the Berlin Wall would be full of graffiti; however, to use such a term to describe the true art work that stood before me would have been an understatement. I could not help but become entranced by the beautiful illustrations as I moved from one mural to the next. Each one touching upon social, political and historical issues that have impacted not only Berliners, but people from all over the world.

While walking along the wall, I took in each segment carefully until I came across a quote that hit extremely close to home. In white and green text, first in German then translated to English, read the words: “Many small people who in many small places do many small things that can alter the face of the world.” I knew I was standing with my mouth agape, but I was not embarrassed. Instead, I was rendered speechless, far too immersed in my own thoughts to be self conscious.

I have always had an insatiable wanderlust that the small town nature of my home state has never been able to quench. I’d be the first one to defend Rhode Island and I can understand why a typical Rhode Islander never leaves—the state is beautiful, after all— but the usual routine of attending the local college or university, finding a job and starting a family not too far away from the town where I grew up was never the life I wanted for myself. So the summer after graduation, I packed up my childhood bedroom to move out-of-state and officially begin my freshman year at Emerson College.

It was not long until I signed up for the Kasteel Well study abroad program, even though I knew that getting in would be a long shot. About two months later, I received my acceptance and my fascination with the notion that I could break the mold and do more and be more than the generations who came before me was stronger than ever.

Considering how much I’ve grown in the past two years, I couldn’t help but wonder what that quote on the Berlin Wall would have meant to me in high school. Would I have felt just as moved by it as I do today? I’d like to believe so. Looking back on all my teenage angst and desperation to hit the road, I think that that quote just put into words what I had always felt and never knew how to articulate; how simply that quote was able to summarize one of my life’s aspirations: to be one person from one small state who, through her experiences and interactions with others, lives in a way that can help change the world.

Even as the other members of my group had continued along the sidewalk of the East Side Gallery, I found myself lingering behind to pull a pen out of my purse. Although unsure of how to sum up the personal significance of the quote, I began to sign the Berlin Wall:

“This is important.” –Charlotte 10.12.14 

And it still is. It’s been almost a full semester since I’ve returned from the Castle and I still find myself thinking about this quote from time to time. From that point forward, it has continued to serve as a reminder that the “little” things I’m doing here in Boston or even back home still matter. Yes, travelling Europe was an awfully big adventure, but I no longer believe you need to travel across the ocean to find yourself or make a difference in the world.

There are small moments in the everyday where I am discovering new pieces of myself. The Castle pushed me out of my comfort zone but now I’m finding myself taking those new skills and applying them to my experiences here, the ones that may seem small to some people, but to me, are the most important thus far.

I don’t think my time here in Boston is complete just yet; after all I still have two years of college to get through, but at the same time, the idea of settling back in Rhode Island post graduation no longer makes me cringe. It can be easy to feel like you’re above going home, but at the end of the day, adventures can be created anywhere and even the smallest of people in the smallest of places can make a difference. And perhaps the most surprising part of that revelation is that it took going to the biggest of places to discover it.

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