i'm in a similar boat to you, when i was 18 i decided that i really wanted to become a chef (it took till 18 because i had planned on joining the army, but health issues arose which put me out of that picture) so what i did was i got a job in the best place around, which happens to be 30 miles from where i live, but the drive doesnt bother me, it gives me time to go over the day in my head. anyways.... i'm only 19 now, and have been working there for 10 months now, and i absolutely love it. in those 10 months i went from being a prep guy, who wasn't hardly allowed to breath on the 'real' food, to where i am now, which is running the pasta/sautee station solo. i make all my sauces, prep all my meats and seafoods, and plate all of the food for my station, and thats after only 10 months and no culinary school at all. but i am starting culinary school in a couple of months, i just have to save up some gas money as i will be commuting 260 miles a day 3 days a week to do this. but hey, if you love what you do, then you should be willing to do just about anyhting to persue it.