2019 Annual Letter

2019 Annual Letter
The Tetons

Hey <<First Name>>,

Guess what. It’s my birthday today, and the thing that I would like more than anything else is staying in touch with the people who have touched me in some ways. That includes you!

I have replaced my “Annual Holiday Letter” with an “Annual Birthday Memo” for several reasons: 1) I’ve noticed that everyone is super busy around the holidays and don’t have a chance to reply until after the chaos is over, and 2) everyone who reaches out to me on my birthday asks about my life, what’s new, etc. I am experimenting with the idea that if I send out the Annual Letter on my birthday, I can feed two birds with one scone. So let’s give it a shot.

How are you? What are some highlights (and low points if you're brave) of your past year? What's keeping you happy these days? What are you looking forward to?

I’d like to know more about you, but I realize it would be unfair for me to send out a 2 minute letter and ask for a 20 minute response.


  1. 2018 was heavy on consumption and not enough production. Lots of podcasts, audiobooks, music and YouTube explainers have been muting me from thinking my own thoughts. I diagnose this as a fear of doing hard things, but also fear of vulnerability, which has been creeping back in my life. Consuming is comfortable--you can’t fail at consuming. Producing, on the other hand, is inherently scary. I recognize this fear, and my plan this year is to change it up. Make more things. Do more projects. Write more words. Draw more ideas. Start more conversations. Fail more often.
  2. I've felt a little detached from my close friends in 2018 largely because I had a lot on my mind, typical quarter-life crisis stuff, some science-derived cynicisms and frustrations, and because of that, Interactions just haven't been the same. It was like talking through a glass window. I was inclined to think that alone time was best for me, but I'm trying to learn (again) that loyal and kind friends will always have your back and make you feel better.
  3. I’ve been helping out in a county-wide working group to get a Styrofoam ban passed in the City of San Diego, working alongside and learning from local rockstar activists for whom this isn’t their first rodeo. Learned a lot about local politics and policy issues. It’s been a long time coming, but we finally got the ban passed, and it went into effect last month!
  4. Early last year, I got my scuba certification, and spent 6 days doing nothing but eating, sleeping and diving in the Gulf of Thailand. It is truly exhilarating to feel surrounded by so many animals in their natural habitat, something that I didn't realize was missing from my city life, and it was definitely a top 3 highlight of 2018.


  1. I have a defense date set for March 29th at 10 AM, and phasers are set to stun! If you are interested, I can send you a Zoom link so you can watch my defense live. I am currently in the throes of writing the thesis which is due in less than a week. (“Why are you freaking writing this email,” you ask? Because I’d literally be writing anything else right now).
  2. I think I will be staying around San Diego for the foreseeable future. Over the years I’ve learned to name every peak and valley, every tree by their sunset silhouettes, and every bird by their morning songs. I have a great group of friends, a very supportive network, and a community with shared values and goals to plug into. All together, there is deep sense of “home” that I haven’t felt anywhere else, and I think it’ll get better and better when I can find more time to engage.
  3. Yes, I’m still living in my car, and it’s been almost 4 years now, which means I can now officially say that I’ve lived in my car for the “majority” of my graduate degree!


  1. If things go according to plan, I’m planning to live in South America for a few months to practice my Spanish and learn more about different “ways of being.” I’m thinking Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, but who knows. I'm just excited to leave the US for a bit. There’s just something about being a new place that fires up how much I can absorb from the world. Attention feels limitless when the novelty is so stimulating.
  2. I’m considering a leap of faith into data-driven journalism and data visualizations. I’ve really fallen in love with programming, and exploratory data analysis in R. I’ve always liked art, and I’ve been unhappy in science partly because I don’t think there was enough room for me to be creative in the ways that I feel most stimulated. I enjoy the challenge of explaining complex ideas, and I also want a career that is remote-friendly. Some examples of what I'd like to make: The Guardian’s NSA Files Project, ProPublica’s Bombs Project, BuzzFeed’s Hidden Spy Planes Project, and Bloomberg’s 2018 Midterm Turnout Project. Also some cool stuff at Periscopic. I just sent in an internship application at The Pudding (fingers crossed!). My next project is to change the way every adult understands marginal tax rates. I have a visualization that I hope will be used in every graphic that talks about taxes lol dream big!). Subscribe to my TinyLetter if you want to stay in the loop of my projects! If this doesn’t work out I’m going to put on a suit and work for a corporation. Or try to get into the Insight Data Science program and work as a data scientist. What’s the difference.
  3. Okay I know I know I keep saying I'm going to launch a website soon. The truth is, I did, and I had about 40 blog posts but I took it down because I was sending some applications out and I didn't want them to see my Socialist writings lol. I promise I'll put something back up in April.

Three books I loved in 2018

  1. Stephen King's IT.
  2. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants.
  3. Zen in the Art of Archery.

That's about it.

Hope to hear from you soon!

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Jamie Larson