Taste buds & Trinity

As a rule, I am very bad at predicting difficult things. Do not ask me to measure pasta or whether you will need a jacket. It’s only my luck that the one time I got a prediction right, I didn’t believe in it.

Between November of 2018 and August this year, I had the “moving to Dublin” conversation ad nauseum. Confronted with a failure of my predictive faculties, I resorted to rehashing each time the same platitudes that I would have an amazing time next year reading philosophy, exploring Ireland and making new friends. But I also found myself halfheartedly making a nontrivial prediction over and over: that living in a new country would feel somehow different from the rest of my life, on an experiential level, since I had gone to college 30 minutes from where I grew up. This prediction met knowing nods. But I had my private doubts. I recalled how in the past whenever I reached a milestone I would build myself up for decisive change—matriculating at college, moving to California for a summer internship, graduating—only to be disappointed when the external change did not suffuse experience, when life just continued to feel like living.

Then August 25 happened, and somewhere between lugging a cumbersome bag half my body weight across the Atlantic and today, things did change. Predictably, it feels different when I’m doing things like taking a train to the countryside to meet 11 new friends for a weekend in Kerry, or enjoying cliffside strolls in Dublin Bay on a Saturday, because those are things I could never do in New York. But on days like today, too, when I did similar things as I did on a typical day at home—coffee, class, office hours—it still feels different. It’s not just Dublin that’s the change; it’s also me and my experience of the world.

How can I describe what is happening to me? I’ve got plenty of books that might help answer that question from this “land of saints and scholars,” where I bought out half the Heaney shelf in a Kilkenny bookstore, and where my quest to stuff the entire history of philosophy into my brain for my MPhil means I spend most of my free time with my nose buried in Hume or Descartes. But, in an unscholarly turn, my mind keeps lingering on a poster that hung in my elementary school infirmary. This poster, which featured “fun facts” about tongues, was at least in the spirit of Descartes in that the information on it was highly dubitable. One of the facts, for example, was that your taste buds change over every 4 weeks; the poster concluded from this that you might hate broccoli yesterday and like it tomorrow.

I long ago learned from Google that the poster was false, but my life in Dublin is forcing me to give its claims a second chance, both literally and metaphorically. For I am observing changes in my experience, like the transmogrification of taste buds, which happen almost arbitrarily, small changes that are harbingers of bigger change. Today for example I noticed I no longer desire savoury breakfast foods, only sweet ones, when before I was firmly team dinner-for-breakfast. Yesterday it was a realization that I keep wearing a pair of plaid trousers (not “pants”—learned that the hard way) that I rarely wore back in New York. Tomorrow, as sure as the sun will rise, I will be subjected to a new revolution in my firmly-held attitudes, maybe not about Oxford commas (unnecessary), surely not about Renoir (can’t paint!) but perhaps the green bubbles on iMessage (disconcertingly verdant). And the day after that, or the day after that, it’ll grow into something bigger.

I enjoy surveying my new arbitrary predilections for now, and I am excited to see how they compound into non-arbitrary change in the rest of my time here. I can’t comment on where you’ll find me in ten months—my track record at predicting change isn’t great, after all—but for the time being, if you need me, you can find me at Kaph, Meditations on First Philosophy in hand, thinking about taste buds and sipping on a cortado, because for some reason, I really like those now.

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