Our theme for the month of September is Alphabet Soup. Each writer was assigned a letter and will title their post “___ is for ___.”
J is for Jordan.
Which, yeah, is convenient for the purpose of this blog post. But having a name that starts with the letter J has always been convenient.
I had terrible handwriting in elementary school. It was sloppy, and not a cool or cohesive sloppy. It was just bad. When learning how to write, J was the best letter for me to start with because it was a shape I already knew how to make. Just draw a hook and you’re 1/6 of the way done, Jordan. Even with a crude five-fingered grip on my thick learner’s pencil, I was capable of drawing hooks. I could (and did) write my Js backwards when thinking of them this way, but it was always clear what I was trying to write.
The refinement process of writing Js left a wide margin of safety. Initially, the swash of my J was a little too aggressive, often blowing right past the dotted line on the middle of penmanship practice lines and dangerously approaching U’s territory. To remedy this, I could further deconstruct the hook shape by straightening out its movements, ending up with something more like \|, an ugly but understandable glyph. Stumbling through the same steps as human history, I was slowly eking out a more directive and vibrant written language with the letter J, pushing shapes into letters, then letters into words, before those words became sentences.
I continued to grow into the letter J. Throughout my schooling, summer vacation was a time for reinvention. Removed from the inertia of routine and structure, summer vacation was a chance to reflect on every fiber of the previous year in anticipation of the coming one.
The summer before third grade required more than the cosmetic changes I could make during perennial back-to-school shopping trips—I needed more than just my shoes to look different. This intense longing for a total rebrand was satisfied by the realization that I could make my entire name look different just by crossing the J at the start of it. The shape of a hook originally dictated how I understood the letter J, but it was now time to shape the letter for myself. It was here that I became Jordan, who I remain to this day on the handwritten page.
Even now, in a digital-professional environment in which default fonts determine the shape of my Js , the letter is still advocating for me. To me, there’s something ageless about names that begin with the letter J. These names fit comfortably in my present—capably shouldering the expectations and responsibilities of adulthood— but carry parts of my past along with them. There are certain J names that I can’t remove some subconscious associations from. Josh goes to my youth group. Jason is on my little league team—my current boss may share a name with him, but little league Jason has primary custody.
I’m thankful for the playfulness that comes with J names. The letters “CPA” that follow my name in an email signature do the dull work of accreditation—telling just how many classes and professional exams I’ve taken and passed. I’m glad my name might tell you something else, something a little more fun.
According to Wikipedia, J is the fourth-least frequently used letter in the English language, and most of its usage is for proper nouns. I’d like to imagine J is looking out for people like me, forgoing dumb shit like nouns or verbs and saving itself for where it is needed most.
J has been and continues to be for Jordan. It’s certainly not against me.
Jordan Petersen Kamp graduated in 2017. He works as the controller for Trellis, a certified Herman Miller furniture dealer located in West Michigan. In his spare time he enjoys talking about the books and albums he looks forward to reading and listening to someday—the ones that he’s definitely heard of but not heard or read yet.