Why J-A-N Just Didn’t Cut It, and What Happened Next

Making life decisions when you're young

I had just graduated from high school and I got a couple of poems published in magazines.  My byline “Jan Chambers”, just looked blah.  Boring.  While I was thrilled about being published, it was vaguely anti-climactic.  I wanted MORE.

In school I had a friend named Jan, who in our senior year started spelling her name with two “n”s.  Jann.  I thought about that, but it still didn’t do anything for me.  Seemed a bit abrupt, actually.

So what about adding an “e”?  Janne.  Yes!  It flows, it looks unique and interesting, it’s the name of an ar-TEEST!

Cool, right?  I was 18 years old.  That spelling–Janne–went on my driver’s license, my bank accounts, my social security card, my credit cards.  Everything (except my marriage license years later–that required the name on my birth certificate, which is Janice).

Over the years–and still to this day–it has gotten pronounced “Jane” (with a long a), Joanne (adding in an o where it doesn’t exist), Janie (changing the second n to an i, making it cutesy),  Jean, and even occasionally Jan-ay.  It gets tiring correcting people all the time, or giving up and just answering to whatever pronunciation they come up with.

So if I’m honest, I might have to say I regret it sometimes.

Now that I’m older, I sometimes contemplate changing it back.  Giving up, as it were.  Using the more “normal” spelling.  But then I think about how it has been the written designation of my identity my entire adult life, and it scares me a little to make that big a change.

Then there’s Homeland Security, whose rules demand that my driver’s license now display the name on my birth certificate.  I found THAT out after my purse was stolen and I had to replace all my IDs.  It doesn’t matter to Homeland Security that I can prove I was born in Kansas City, that I haven’t had so much as a parking ticket in over 30 years, and that I am as far from being any kind of terrorist as it is possible to be.  No matter that everything that requires ID–most importantly my bank accounts and credit cards–says “Janne”, and HAS ALWAYS said “Janne” (which I could also prove).  They insisted that the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles force me to put the name on my birth certificate, on my license.   So now my identification says “Janice”, which of course doesn’t match whatever it is that I need to identify myself for.  That’s a fun and lengthy explanation any time anyone asks!Waiting at the driver license bureau

Oh, Homeland Security DID say I could go to court and have my name legally changed to Janne.  Yippee.

All this over a decision I made when I was young, that affects me now and has affected me all my life.  And it was just a small decision!  What about all the big decisions I made, the big decisions everyone makes when they’re young and inexperienced and hopeful and enthusiastic and naive?   You just make those decisions and keep chuggin’ along!  You have to keep making decisions if you don’t want your life to be completely stagnant.

It’s likely you’ll second-guess yourself more than once along the way.

What if?…it’s one of the most interesting questions we get to ask ourselves as our life unfolds!

Ask the questions and contemplate the possibilities.  Me?…I think I’ll be Janne for awhile longer.


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