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Joining the Club

James Kerr

CALL ME SOLITARY MAN. I’ve never been much of a joiner. I’ve never belonged to a country club and can count on two hands the number of social organizations I’ve been part of during my working years.

Part of this was because I didn’t have a lot of time to pursue outside interests while working 14-hour days as a corporate manager. What spare time I did have, I preferred to spend writing, fishing, hiking or engaged in other solitary pursuits.

But if I’m being honest, much of my club avoidance over the years is because I’m cheap. The idea of forking over thousands of dollars for a country club membership when I had more pressing things to do with my money, like funding my retirement accounts and the kids’ 529 plans, didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Besides, the whole notion of a club has always smelled to me of privilege and exclusivity. Why would I want to pay through the nose so I can prove to others that I’ve arrived?

In retrospect, I realize I was a bit of a snob in the way I looked at clubs. Yes, a club—especially the swanky kind—is, by definition, exclusive. After all, people without money can’t afford it. But many clubs do a lot of good through their charitable causes. Clubs are also a great way to meet people and to network. By staying away from them, I paid a price in terms of missed career opportunities and friendships over the course of my career.

The author (center) at the Creamton Fly Fishing Club

Better late than never, right? Since I left the corporate world almost two years ago, I’ve joined several clubs, including a fly-fishing club near my vacation home in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. Club membership is pricey, but it offers exclusive access to six miles of pristine trout stream in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Why the sudden change of heart? There are several reasons. First, I now have more time on my hands to indulge in my passions.

Second, I have the money, so why not join a club or two that align with my interests? The fly-fishing club provides a chance to fish prime trout waters without standing elbow-to-elbow with other fishermen along stocked public waters. For a guy like me who loves fishing but hates crowds, that’s priceless.

To assuage my conscience about being part of an exclusive, members-only club that some others can’t afford, I’m ramping up my volunteering and my giving to nonprofit organizations. In addition to being on the board of directors of a nonprofit alternative educational organization, I’ve joined the local Rotary Club, where we meet weekly to plan service projects for needy community groups and causes.

The third and most important reason I’ve decided to join these clubs: They allow me to meet people and stay socially engaged—things that are vitally important as we grow older. About a quarter of Americans age 65 and older are socially isolated, recent research revealed. Beyond the emotional pain of loneliness, seniors who are socially isolated also tend to develop cognitive issues at an earlier age.

Men, in particular, have a problem in this area. We tend to have fewer friends than women in the first place, and when we lose them, as we inevitably do as we get older, we have a harder time making new ones.

Speaking for myself, I’ve lost several good friends over the years. I can feel my social connections dwindling. Now is the time to rebuild them.

Happily, I’ve already made a couple of new friends through the groups I’ve recently joined. To me, these friendships and social connections are well worth the price of membership.

You can’t take it with you, as they say. I feel good knowing I’m spending my money on things I enjoy and that give back to the community, while keeping me engaged in that community.

James Kerr led global communications, public relations and social media for a number of Fortune 500 technology firms before leaving the corporate world to pursue his passion for writing and storytelling. His debut book, “The Long Walk Home: How I Lost My Job as a Corporate Remora Fish and Rediscovered My Life’s Purpose,” was published in 2022 by Blydyn Square Books. Jim blogs at PeaceableMan.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesBKerr and check out his previous articles.

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