• Soo Yon Ryu

Stories to Tell.

2020년 2월 19일 업데이트됨

It is the time of the year - the application season. Such a time is tough for high school seniors facing Su-Neung (the 'Korean SAT'), but it is also a rather stressful period for a graduate student like myself with the upcoming Ph.D. applications. This means I will be experiencing more sleepless nights and exhausted mornings. On one such a night, I am jotting down some thoughts that my mind is much too full to keep in.

Blog and Consumer Behavior

A few days ago, I finished writing my Statement of Purpose for the upcoming Ph.D. applications. I had the chance to think in-depth about why I wish to pursue consumer behavior research, what projects I have been doing, and which topics of interest I plan to engage in. Obviously, these were topics that I often ponder over, but writing about it (somewhat logically) really helped me make sense of how I ended up pursuing research and why I wish to continue to do so.

I say this because honestly, a couple of years back, I did not see myself pursuing research. I assumed research and academia were for the gifted, which, I presumed, I was not. My perspective on this matter has changed quite a bit, as I still acknowledge that I have average intelligence but still believe I may have what it takes to become a scholar in this field. Now that I had some time to make sense of my unforeseen path, I am realizing my many accidental choices have led me up to this point. Let's take a short journey - I met some developers in an academic-industrial collaboration project, started a business with them, decided to earn a master's degree after consulting a professor I acquainted while running the business, and ran into an academic field that seemed to be a perfect fit for me and my interests. None of these events were planned but somehow, none of these choices seemed wrong.

When I first learned of the field of consumer research, I had a surreal experience - something clicked. My linguistic abilities limit my description of the event, but what I can say is that at that instance, I felt something instantly falling into place. While I was writing my SoP, I wondered for a long time where that click came from. One of the things I realized is that my blog (not this one - I have been blogging since 2008 on another platform) marks the start of my expression of interest in consumer behavior and the interests I have been exploring through my blog line up quite well with what consumer behavior research is about.

The blog opened many doors for me. I collaborated with numerous brands and acted as the mediator between corporations and consumers. Yet, my perspective and the way I voiced somehow always reflected those of the consumers. It is unsurprising, as I have lived in the shoes of a consumer more than I have lived in the shoes of a manager. Nonetheless, later, when I ran my two small businesses and gained a corporate perspective, I still saw things from the consumers' perspective and wished to understand how they think and act. I believe such a stance was translated into my current research interest. I do not believe it is a coincidence that I was drawn to the research area that focuses on understanding people rather than generating revenue.

Which Stories to Tell

Indeed, the topics that I am currently drawn to are not much different from what I have been always talking about. They include aesthetics, signaling, compensatory consumption, and transformative research. Elaborating on the last topic, I am generally concerned with how consumption can alleviate the burden and deficits modern consumers experience, which types of consumption need to be taken with precaution, whether consumption can address inequalities in the marketplace, and what factors lead to a more sustainable consumption environment - the topics that I have been addressing throughout my blogging journey. Now, I have the tools to speak of these topics in a more refined language and with more scientific approaches.

What to Live by

After I have set a career objective in research and narrowed down on which stories to tell, my pattern of living became quite simple. With only a few months left until the applications, I have eliminated almost all activities unrelated to academics. Honestly, this lifestyle is not very easy as I enjoy meeting people, being artistically stimulated, and getting attention. But I am giving this process my undivided attention as I believe pursuing a doctoral degree will facilitate my realization of the many academic goals I have specified above.

I am not letting myself do things, but I am still letting myself plan some things I wish to achieve outside academia. Planning provides its own kind of satisfaction, as though I have already begun my quests. Recently, I have been reviewing my 'Chungbazi Project (roughly translated to 'Youth Project' - a type of bucket list, if you will)' I set for my twenties. Although I failed to record some of my achievements in my blog, I have accomplished quite a bit from the list. Plus, with changes in my values and interests, there are some challenges I wish to drop. I listed up the challenges in my early twenties when my lifestyle was significantly different from the lifestyle I have now, making some challenges difficult to achieve in the current circumstances.

After some pruning, I narrowed down the challenges from one hundred to fifty (..maybe I will achieve the other fifty during my thirties.. let's see.) and organized the fifty challenges into six themes - exploring, learning, creating, branding, giving back, and loving. After organizing, I realized that these six themes are the values I wish to live by. ​I wish to lead a life in which I understand and express myself, create, contribute to society, explore the world, endlessly learn, and love. A life that is unfaltering of challenges, one that sublimates anxiety into growth, one that knows of gratitude, and one that is grounded on diligence.

A wise man (honestly cannot remember who) once said, when one walks, one believes he/she is walking in a straight line, but when looking back, realizes the path had been a zigzag. My experiences were a little different. What I believed was a zigzag all along had actually been within one wide road and I was simply visiting all the edges. Perhaps such visits allowed me to experience the beauty in life I may have otherwise missed had I walked in a straight line.

But it is far too early to conclude the paths of life just yet. I am excited more than ever about the many stories that await me in this journey that I have unknowingly pursued. My fear is high but so is my hope. Let's see how this challenging time will untangle. All I can do for today is to live zealously and hope that maybe tomorrow's night will be a shorter one. Good night.

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Time to Catch Up.

I sometimes spend my time on strange things, such as calculating how long it will take to catch up with major marketing journals. Here is my calculation. Journals Considered Journal of Consumer Resear