I have a somewhat comparable story to yours and can shed some light on the matter....
Please don't take any of this as bragging, or negative towards you, or anything of the sort...I'm trying to state objective facts.
I've been in the restaurant industry since 2008. I have a Bachelor's in Business and a Masters in Hospitality/Hotel School. Since 2008, I've worked as a waiter at a Chinese bistro, done a management internship with Marriot and Hilton, restaurant manager for Hilton, and then took a change and moved to NY to work in a 4 star restaurant as a busboy (at age 24). There I moved up to "demi chef de rang" (I suggest you google that one, tough to explain) before asking for a kitchen transfer. I now started at garde manger in a busy french bistro in times square and moved up to cooking burgers and fries after 2 months. I was making roughly $1k+ per week after tax as a waiter in the 4 star place, and now make $400 per week after tax as a cook. I used to go in to work b/w 3-4pm, and now go in around 1pm. I used to sit down for staff meal, dress in a nice suit, talk with celebrities and pour $1000 bottles of wine, to now burning my hands with a 400 degree oven and getting my hands full of grease and grime under my nails. I used to live in the Upper East Side and walk to work and now live in Harlem 30 minutes from work by train.
In other words, the life of a line cook is not what is painted on television. It is a tough life, filled with many of societies rejects. Even in the 4 star places, you'll find dirty idiots. Are you prepared to be screamed at over a salad? Are you prepared to slice off a piece of your fingertip (I guarantee it will happen) and continue with service for the next 10 hours, handling citrus and salt? Are you prepared to kiss your social life and weekends goodbye? Read Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" for a good insight into this industry.
I never went to culinary school, and consider it a waste at our/your age. I have played around in kitchens for the past 4 years, learning basic and cooking skills, but never going full tilt into the kitchen until now. It costs $40,000 for a decent school (FCI, Johnson and Wales, CIA)--which most likely means you'll need a loan. At $8-10/hr, it can take a lifetime to repay that. It only takes 2-4 weeks to develop basic knife skills, and just a bit more to get very fast and precise. I apprenticed briefly at 4 star French place in NY where it took me about 1 hour to dice 5 butternut squash into 1 inch cubes for puree. After 1-2 weeks, I was able to do it less than 10 minutes. After 2 more weeks, I was doing the whole puree in 30 minutes and watching it go out on plates. In other words, it's not impossible if you have common sense.
You will learn so much more by purchasing a handful of good books, googling everything, watching videos online, getting a good set of knives, and throwing yourself into the best restaurant that will take you. There will be innumerable speed bumps at first, but if you're serious, shut up and listen, you have a chance for someone to care 3 hoots about you and show you something you can't learn in school. I've seen countless people come out of fancy culinary schools that lack a sense of urgency, discipline, humility, and applicable skills---skills you should already have regardless of your industry by age 26. So a kid coming out of school knows the proper terminology for how to describe when something is "nape." Congratulations. While she was busy blowing steam up her own ass, I passed her in a promotion and learned how to break down 2 whole salmon in different ways (Japanese technique, French technique) in under 10 minutes by combining what I learned at the restaurant with references in books and videos online. I'll also give you one guess as to who didn't know how to break down lobster the other day with their $40,000 degree?