I spend a certain amount of my time at work helping companies with the proper care and feeding of their online fan clubs.
A club is a community with a specific common context and a clearly defined membership. Either you are in the club or you’re not. There’s no ambiguity there.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the clubs that you join against your will. I received a copy of Melody Beattie’s book, The Grief Club last fall when I attended a Celebration Dinner for The Healing Place, a local addiction recovery center. (They’re a client of the advertising agency where I work.)
In the book, Beattie talks about the clubs you never intended to join. It’s not an entirely new concept to me. I think most of the people I know (myself included) belong to at least one club they would have opted out of, had they been given a choice.
Nobody sets out to join the “diagnosed with an incurable disease” club. Or the “widowed at 36 with three small kids” club. I’m pretty sure no one is fighting to get into the “my spouse decided to cheat on me” club.
And yet, the people who end up in these clubs seem to often, somehow, find each other. You bond over coffee and pain and the internet. You help those who are new to the club not to be afraid–or at least, not to be terrified. You help and get help seeing where to go next, because generally there’s a safe path through it. You discover that a sorrow shared with the sorrows of many actually feels less heavy than the individual sorrow you were carrying alone.
In finding each other, you realize that it’s better to be in a club you never wanted to join with a lot of people who also never wanted to be there, than to be what you felt like you were when you first qualified for membership.