When someone says, "turn that frown upside down," or "look on the bright side," would you sooner hear nails rake across a chalkboard? Does a Hallmark-like platitude served up with a side of "snap-out-of-it" smile make you want to snap yourself? If so, you've got something in common with Kim Korson. Korson's new book of essays and reflections on her life is a response to that "find your happy place" request. It's called " I Don't Have A Happy Place."
Among the very funny things you'll discover about Korson in this book is a list of things in life she doesn't care for that most other people rave about including (but not limited to) convertibles, traveling, eating on the beach, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and parades.
Kim Korson grew up in Montreal in a Jewish middle-class family. The book is about her childhood years on to high school and then college, and up to her present time in Vermont.
Korson said she was writing a novel while living in New Jersey with her husband and kids and when the family was considering moving to Vermont, she started a blog because she was "riddled with anxiety."
"I noticed the writing was coming much easier than when I was attempting the novel. And somehow, all of those complaints turned into a book."
Her family is all in the book, but she did change their names, including her husband's. "He thinks he comes across terrific, as do most people. I call him Buzz in the book. I have heard tons of people tell me how much they love him."
As a child, she didn't like the "rah-rah" crowd and would seek out other kids in school who looked as miserable as she felt for friends. From kindergarten to 5th grade, Korson went to a French-speaking school in Montreal, despite only speaking English at home, an experience she describes as "terrible."
"It was a giant school, very Catholic, very serious. I felt intimidated and dumb, terrified all the time. I did miserably there." When asked why her parents sent her there she said her mom "really dug the idea of uniforms because she thought that would help our relationship later on if we didn't fight about clothes. I kind of think that was the number one reason."
Despite a lot of the unhappy times as a kid, Korson points out in the book that nothing terrible or traumatic really happened to her but, in some ways she wish it had, because then she'd feel more justified about having a negative outlook on things. Depression does run in her family, but when she got her own diagnosis of a mild depression, she felt it wasn't good enough.
"It just seemed lame. You know, I'd been waiting for some sort of diagnosis. I'm a bit of a hypochondriac. I've been to the doctor a number of times. You kind of want to be validated a little bit and get some kind of diagnosis, but nothing terminal, nothing dreadful," she said, and so it was kind of a lukewarm, middling, diagnosis.
Now, she's settling into live in Vermont. When her husband suggested it she remembers saying she absolutely couldn't move to Vermont because she "didn't look rural." She said she was serious. " I don't know, I just don't look like a farmer or someone rural. I won't fit in there. And then I thought there weren't real dentists here, I couldn't move there. And I wish it was fiction. It was kind of mortifying."
Now, four years in, she actually loves it. "I said 'I think I'm happy here.' My husband said 'you know, as happy as you get.' And I think that's quite true."
The book even hits on Disney World. For someone like Korson, the "happiest place on earth" might be the last place she'd want to go. She said she went kicking and screaming, prepared to hate it. But something happened.
"It started slowly on the "It's a Small World" ride. I started to get a little weepy, and sentimental. And slowly but surely, I ended up having the best time out of the whole family," she said. "I was mortified. I don't know what was wrong with me. My daughter wanted to go back to the hotel, I practically pushed her back onto a ride. I loved it. I couldn't believe it."
Korson's husband is the more positive of the two, and she said that balance is needed to counteract one another.
"If we were both malcontents most of the time, we'd never leave the house -- which would be fine with me."
Kim Korson will read from "I Don't Have A Happy Place" in June at the Phoenix Book Store in Burlington.