Unretiring

John Battelle
3 min readMay 30, 2023

(original post)

I’ve been thinking about retirement lately. I’m not retired, at least I don’t think I am, though moving on from The Recount has left me uncertain about how to answer the inevitable “so what do you do” questions — the ones that anchor nearly every social gathering I attend:

Person I Just Met: So what do you do besides hang out at dinner parties?

Me: I’ve been trying to come up with a good answer for that one.

Person I Just Met: So, you’re retired?

Well no, in fact, I’m not retired. Why does everyone jump to that term? The word has always bothered me. It lands poorly, evoking decay and senescence. Its cousin “retiring” conjures a person who wishes to disengage from the world, and its root is, well, tired. I mean, who wants to be tired, much less, thanks to the prefix “re” — tired over and over again?

I know there are tens of millions of proudly retired folk, people who embrace the term as an achievement. Fine, but I’m not joining that team. To me, it signals that you’re done adding anything productive to the world in terms of your career. You’re on the penultimate leg of life, and the only meaningful stop left is a long dirt nap.

So maybe it’s time to retire the word’s first definition: “to leave one’s job and cease to work, typically upon reaching the…

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John Battelle

A Founder of The Recount, NewCo, Federated Media, sovrn Holdings, Web 2 Summit, Wired, Industry Standard; writer on Media, Technology, Culture, Business