The Traditional Route Was Never Meant for Me

There’s a traditional route that we’re taught to follow from the moment we set our tiny little feet into the education system. The route, at first glance, seems rather easy. All you gotta do is 12 years of school, another 2-4 years in college, find the perfect job, work there for 50 years, retire, and live happily ever after. 

Except that’s not reality. 

Reality doesn’t show its devilish face until you’ve already gone through 16 years of school, and accrued debt that will more than likely crush your hopes and dreams before you hit 30. Oh, and the perfect job doesn’t exist. It never will. Finding your dream job will be like trying to catch a fart in the wind. You can try and chase that wind, but the only prize you’ll be getting is some free air biscuits along the way. Is this path starting to smell yet?

What Do My Next 50 Years Look Like?

After graduating high school, and celebrating the fact that I was finally done serving my 12-year education sentence, I was conflicted about what to do next. According to the traditional route, my next step was to enjoy my summer off, which really meant working as much as humanly possible to save for college, and then willfully go right back into another 2-4 years of education prison. Uh, gut check, that did not sit well with me. 

And not only that, I had no fuckin’ clue what I would even go to college for. I felt like a piece of shit when someone asked me, “Hey, Tyler, where are you going to school? What are you going to major in? My response was always the same, “Uhh, I have no idea. I’m probably gonna take a year off and work.” I can’t even count how many times I heard the sound of disappointment fall out of people’s mouths when I said that. I was 18, how the hell am I supposed to know what I want to spend the rest of my life doing? 

That whole idea is batshit crazy to me. At 18, you can’t even buy yourself a beer. You’re asking people what they want to do for the next 50 years of their life? There’s no chance in hell.  

When I was 18, I was just trying to survive and make ends meet. I moved into an apartment with a buddy of mine and worked my ass off hoping I’d be able to pay rent that month. What I wanted to go to school for was definitely put on the back burner. My only thoughts were work, work, work. 

Now sure, I brought the struggling situation on myself. But I wanted to start taking my first steps as an adult to prove to myself I could do it. To me, learning how to pay my bills, save money, spend responsibly, and become a dependable, hardworking employee was much higher on my priority list than going to college. 

Boy, was the grind real though. I’d be working 50 – 60 hour weeks just to make ends meet. The wear and tear your body and mind go through working that many hours at 18, sheesh, I wasn’t quite ready for that system shock. 

I knew I couldn’t keep working the double shifts and swing shifts forever. So, I took a hard look in the mirror after a 15-hour shift, stared back at my fatigued and sunken eyes, and I caved. Maybe everyone was right. Maybe I had strayed from the traditional route long enough. In my head, I was thinking it was time to grow up. It was time to go to college.

My Traditional Route Experience

Unfortunately, this turned out to be the biggest crock of shit I could’ve spent my money on. I felt like I time-traveled right back to high school. Basically, the only difference now was that I was on the hook to pay for all of my classes and overpriced textbooks that I’d probably never use. Please, take all of my money. It was actually burning a hole in my pocket. Look at you, College, helping me avoid that fire hazard. Bless your face. 

I remember taking a business class that was “teaching” us how to write an email. A literal email. Yeah, don’t write an email like a text message. And don’t email your instructors when you’re blackout drunk. Ok, cool, duly noted. I’ll make flashcards of these wise words because this is clearly not obvious information here. Let’s move on. Oh, we’re gonna spend another 2 whole days on this? On emails? You’re telling me I’m paying $500 for this? I’m gonna slam my head repeatedly on this desk in hopes I forget how to write an email, so this “lesson” will come across as mind-blowing. 

Fingers crossed.

You wanna know the kicker to all this? I tried college three more times over the next 4 years hoping I wouldn’t be transported back to high school. Of course, all attempts resulted in the same conclusion. I’d be sitting in class, the instructor would be emphasizing a topic that should have been common sense, and I would just go braindead. I’d question why I ever decided to go back to college, see all the money that was leaving my bank account to pay for this bullshit, and then I’d be gone after the first semester. 

On my final attempt at college, the real nail in the coffin for me was a survey I took when I was in the Business Management program – I know, the major itself sounds dry as sandpaper. That should’ve been my first sign – I can’t recall most of the questions except for one: “Who do you want to work for once you graduate?” 

I couldn’t give an answer. 

So here I was for the third time now, in business management, and I had no fuckin’ clue what I wanted to manage or who to work for. Great. I assumed the ol’ third time’s a charm trick was science. That’s a big ol’ negative, Rubber Ducky.

The only person that made sense to work for was, well, myself. I wanted to be my own boss. I just couldn’t fathom working in a corporate environment and climbing the hierarchy. Which is what I imagined would be at the end of this business management rainbow. Except there’d be no pot of gold. Only a red stapler. And that stapler would end up being my life. I’d pull a Milton and burn that building to the ground if they took that red Swingline away from me. 

That’s when I finally knew that I was never going to walk down the traditional route. My life was never going to fit the mold. 

I wish this epiphany came, you know, 3 years earlier. I burned through roughly $15,000 to realize the route was bullshit. 

The Choice

With my newfound revelation, I was now at a 2-way crossroad. To be sure I only had two ways to go, I lit the college path on fire. There was no way I was setting foot on that road. You’d have to literally pay me to go to college again.

So, I could go left, and figure out a way to be my own boss and start my own business, or I could go right, and keep cooking until the day I die. 

I know that sounds kinda dramatic, but once the restaurant life sinks its dirty little hooks into you, it is so hard to get out. Let’s just say the skills learned in a kitchen aren’t exactly transferable. Unless, of course, cursing like a sailor and drinking copious amounts of caffeine is part of the job description.

Assuming that job doesn’t exist, I decided I was going to create it. So, took a stroll down the left path to see what the hell I was made of. 

What’s the worst that could happen, right?

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