Kim Korson is your new favorite curmudgeon, a true Negative Nancy, the ultimate Debbie Downer. She's perfectly happy being unhappy, and she shares her path to negativity and all the merits of discontent in her acerbic, witty memoir, I Don't Have a Happy Place. In a Behind the Book feature, Korson shares a bit on not being "wired for mirth."
I can’t recall what the fight was about. The details are fuzzy, but it was a benign argument, devoid of bruised feelings or threats of couch sleeping. I do remember there was a showdown in the living room, barbs shooting out of our mouths but none of them landing until my husband yelled, “Can’t you go lie down in a field somewhere and find your happy place?” to which I replied, without missing a beat, “I don’t have a happy place!” Here, we had one of those romantic comedy moments where a tense situation was diffused by (unintentionally) humorous dialogue, and laughter ensued. The fight was over, but my comeback pinballed around my brain for weeks after.
I am a glass half empty. I am negative, have a poor attitude and, if we’re being honest, don’t care much for fun. I come from a long line of depressants and have spent my lifetime managing my undesirability, and, not to brag, but I think I’ve figured out how to be a malcontent with grace. But just when you think you’ve learned how to function out there, the world fights back by pelting you with those dumb lemons they’re always talking about, in the hopes you will make pitchers of sweet lemonade. Happiness. Everything is about happiness. The world is obsessed with it. It’s what your loved ones wish for you, what books teach, what articles quiz you on—all anyone wants is for you to be happy. Is that wrong? It’s a delightful request, most would say. But what if you are not happy? Or worse, what if you find the pursuit of happiness exhausting, relentless, impossible? What if you are just not wired for mirth? Is that even allowed? Are you a failure as a human being if you are not happy? I needed to know.
I decided to forage through my life, picking through experiences where good humor was expected—summer camp, falling in love, following dreams—to see if happiness seeped in or if I’d kept it at bay.
I’m not big on lessons, but I have learned that humor makes unpleasant people or situations palatable. For a malcontent, I laugh quite a bit and I wanted to focus on the dark humor of unhappiness in my book I Don’t Have a Happy Place. Some of our most traumatic events contain hilarity; you just have to find it. While there is nothing amusing about losing a cherished relative, throw extended family together, and, I promise you, there will be no shortage of comedy.
People say happiness is about moments. I chose to use linked, short-but-true stories to focus on the transitory nature of both happiness and misery. I wanted each of the essays to be able to stand alone but also to weave together a lifetime of unhappy thoughts. Once I strung together all the moments, I could step back and see how I fared. Turns out, I’m kind of depressing. But I know this about myself and have since let myself off the happy hook. And I’m happy with that.
Kim Korson is a writer, originally from Montreal, Canada. She’s written for O Magazine and Moomah The Magazine. Kim now lives in Southern Vermont with her husband and two kids. She doesn’t get out much.