Ivan Penafiel is a Museum Assistant and senior at Florida State University. Currently, Ivan has been taking some time at home to prepare for the upcoming semester.
Hello everyone! My name is Ivan Penafiel and I’m a senior in the Creative Writing program at FSU. I’ve been working at MoFA since last November as a museum assistant and occasional researcher/social media contributor. If you visited the Museum during our Saturday hours last semester, you were likely greeted by me at the front desk. I was invited to contribute to this Home Work blog (trademark pending) about my experience over the past few weeks, what I’ve been up to and whatnot. So, without further ado, here’s a little bit of what’s been happening on my end.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to take a trip down to south Florida for a bit and see how my friends and family back home were doing. To be honest, I planned on also using that time to clear my head up on a few matters; with FSU’s Fall semester being delivered mainly online, I was faced with the options of either studying back home at my parent’s house and saving some of that hard-earned mula that don’t come around so easily these days, or continue enjoying my broke independence in Tallahassee.
As you may know, Broward and Miami Dade County were two of the worst hit areas by the pandemic in the state, with over 128,000 confirmed COVID cases as of writing this. A recent surge in cases during the time I’ve been here required the reinstitution of county-mandated curfews, so most of my activities have been limited to indoors with the occasional morning run or tennis match, or the cliché walk at the park during sundown. Overall, it’s been a good time to catch up on some long-missed shenanigans with all the homies, airplaying random YouTube clips on the TV as we zig-zag three or four different conversations across the room—just friends being foolish and enjoying each other’s long-missed company again. My favorite part of being back has been something entirely different, though.
In my time away at school, I’ve realized it’s very easy for us to make characters out the people who are close to us and to stop seeing them as the complex individuals that they are. Being on my own has not only awarded me the opportunity to grow but also realize that my parents and grandparents have also experienced the same trials and tribulations of this stage of life I’m in, and in learning this one opens a whole new chapter of relationship with one’s family and peers: a sort of direct line of communication with their true self which ends up forming a deeper sense of camaraderie between you beyond the superficial role they have played in our lives up until now—in the words of the Disney Channel classic, High School Musical, you realize “we’re all in this together.” So, the thing I’ve truly enjoyed the most these past few weeks is meeting everyone for the first time again, seeing their uniqueness with fresh eyes, like the spark on my mother’s eyes when she tells me about the new recipes she’s been developing in her kitchen, and my uncle showing me the new themes he’s working with for his upcoming art exhibitions, and getting to see the variety of new hobbies picked up by my friends during quarantine—discovering brand new facets of their interests which I never knew before, from knitting all the way to tattooing. Definitely, a longing I didn’t know I had.
As I lay in bed, meditatively watching the sunset paint its colors through the window of my childhood bedroom, I ponder over the initial question while I look back on the past few weeks spent here. Should I stay or should I go? I’ve had a great time being back, and the tighter bonds I’ve formed with everyone are something I would never trade in this world, but I know this was only possible because of my time away at school—a time to grow and appreciate the things I had overlooked before. So, I must go, continue my journey and individual growth, but I look forward to their own growth and seeing them afresh once more.