I'm no chef (yet), but I would say eat the stress when you're young. Don't be some goober banquet jockey right away. Go see some shizzle and sweat it out in some serious kitchens while you have good knees. You can settle into the easy life later. But kudos to you on your experience already. The biggest mistakes I made were taking easier better paying jobs that boned my resume. That's why I am 30 cooking the good stuff at home in between shifts of pumping out grub. You will learn and see some sweet stuff in real restaurants. Some of the chefs on here do such goofy stuff and are so limited they can't believe breakfast dives with cheapskate owners do 1.5 mil a year.
You are not going to learn the rigors of running your own restaurant working in a non-restaurant environment.
2) my staff: I have picked up techniques, recipes and cooking philosophies from everyone who has worked for me
3)dining out: every time I eat out I am taking note of what they are doing right and what's wrong, what to avoid and what to copy or tweek to my tastes. I know it's expensive, but how many meals could you afford with the 10's of thousands you would spend on cooking school?
4)cooking shows: it made a big impression on me when I heard Top Chef's Tom Collichio on two separate occassions chide a contestant for putting something substandard on the plate. It didnt matter what their intentions were, if the veg or starch or whatever didn't work, don't serve it. Also I learned from Jacques Pepin's show to not take "received wisdom" too seriously since a lot of what is passed down through the ages are old wives tales and superstition...just things that are repeated over and over and thus taken as fact.
You must develop a philosophy about food and cooking...e.g., Is buying local and seasonal your top priority? Executing simple food perfectly? Being innovative?
Personally I don't understand the value of spending one day (in cooking school) making coq au vin, the next day making braised beef, the next day, making hollandaise. I don't know about you, but I need to repeat tasks for them to fully sink in and for me to execute them quickly without referring to a cookbook. (Not to mention that at culinary school they give you way too much time to execute the dish.) Also as you repeat a dish daily at a restaurant you learn to refine it and personalize it to type own taste.
Find a restaurant that you want to work in and write a personalized cover letter to the chef (along with your resume) stating why you want to work there and what you have to offer.
Good luck and please don't put off life by going to culinary school.
Ps, if you are going to school partially to get a bachelor's degree that's a different story. But if the school only offers an associates degree, I doubt if that will open any more doors than a high school diploma (but I could be wrong about that point).
What IS helpful is as a restaurant owner is good bookkeeping skills and control over the numbers...this is an area I'm lacking in.
Pps: the secret to my success as a restaurateur is obsessive attention to detail and quality control