Monday, August 18, 2008


“How many things did you try before you settled on owning a restaurant?” asked one of my young employees today. 

“I was eighteen when I started working in restaurants,” I replied.  “So I guess the answer to that is, ‘Not too many…’”

Earlier, I’d had a short conversation with a few of my other girls, about educational choices and my feelings about them.  We had been discussing a former employee who aspires to become a surgeon.  Smart as a whip, I have no doubt this girl could attain that goal.  Unfortunately, she is also a little hoodlum.  She’s achieved very little of note in her high school career.  Histrionics, drama and a penchant for coming this close to running afoul of the law have been her hallmarks.  But, you know, it seems unfair that, if a child aspires to a career as a doctor, she has to start minding her p’s and q’s at about age thirteen.  High school performance is hugely important when it comes to getting into a good medical school.  I personally think it’s ridiculous that a fourteen- or fifteen-year-old’s indiscretions could put a serious damper on her career aspirations.  In fact, I think it’s criminal that  fourteen- or fifteen-year-olds should be required to have career aspirations.  Let them be children, for god’s sake.  They have an entire lifetime to grow up and shoulder adult burdens.

What about me?  What did I want to be when I grew up?  I had no idea, which is how I ended up where I am.  And it’s not a bad place.  I could be worse off.  But I could also be…somewhere else.

I’m smart.  I have a good mind, a tremendous memory, and I know how to turn a phrase decently.  When I was in high school, that meant I tended to excel in English.  But nobody told me what I could DO with that.  Continuing education, for me, appeared to be the opportunity to go to college, study my ass off at great expense to my parents and myself, and come out after four years with a degree in…English.  Ugh!  What the hell was I supposed to do with that?  Teach?  Not hardly.  Go on to a masters and a doctorate?  I was not a great lover of school…I wasn’t particularly attracted to the idea of becoming a professional student.

So, I didn’t go to college.  I passed on that experience and went to work at the local pizza place instead.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

Now….NOW, I know I could have…should have…gone to law school.  I think I would have made a hell of a lawyer.  But I came from the wrong social stratum…the idea of a law career wasn’t even on my radar screen.  Ever.  To me, college meant either liberal arts or biting the bullet to get some kind of degree I could “use.”  Like accounting or something equally depressing (not to mention completely counter to any talent I possessed…)  My family didn’t know any lawyers.  We didn’t move in those circles.  So studying law never, ever entered the picture.

Do I regret that now?  Do I consider the option of dropping everything I’m doing to go to college and on to law school?  I’d be, what?  Sixty-two years old when I got my degree?  What the hell would I do with it?  Who wants to hire a bright, up-and-coming OLD lawyer?

No.  It’s past time for those kinds of career upheavals.  I’ve made my choices.  I’m an entrepreneur now.  I own a restaurant.  And I’m here to tell you, it’s no less of a challenge than going back to college and getting that law degree would have been; but at least I have two years of it under my belt already.  Owning a business uses a huge skill set; you have to wear more hats than you ever knew existed when you started out on the endeavor.  It’s an uphill climb every day.

And I think that is precisely why I do what I do.  Any regret I might feel that I didn’t do something more “worthwhile” is shouldered aside by the pressing reality of my never-ending to-do list.  There are days that I am completely overwhelmed.  But, for the first time in my life…I’m happy with what I do for a living.  That has to count for something.  In fact, I think it counts for everything.          


  1. I guess regret is never constructive and always best set aside, however the reality is that it IS there and it's never easy to put it away and forget about it.  I'm in the process of learning this very lesson, and it's a hard one.  All the best. Sue

  2. It is so easy to look back and see the paths we should have taken. I wish that we had a good guidance counselor at the high school I attended but that is life! We end up where we end up.

  3. We never know what changes we will make in life- challenges present themselves and we can take up the gauntlet or not. Nothing is set in stone when it comes to ourselves and our decisions. I sure understand what you said about the young girl and her desire to be a surgeon- you do have to do something to attain a goal and the route many take goes the wrong direction! Oh, I sorta think I need to resent the 62 year old remark- I'm going to be 62 in November! LOL Dannelle

  4. LIsa, what a great post - and one which I am going to share with the three young ladies, the Lovely Daughter and her friends, with whom I had dinner last night.  All college seniors, all asking these questions.  All unsure about what to committ themselves to or what it will take, and all feeling the pressure of parents and professors trying to tell them just what consitutes an "acceptable" committment or way of life.  What a great wondow you provide into the challenges of discernment.  You really ought to submit this one to your local paper's business and women's sections.

  5. Great post, as usual. I keep thinking, most of us will live into our seventies, why on earth are we trying to get kids to decide what they're going to do with their lives when they're thirteen. Except that it gets them out and being "productive" ASAP. Doesn't seem to make for happy people though.


  6. Settle for owning a restaurant huh? For shame. That is my dream!!


  7. How many of us are even CLOSE to being the same person at 50 as we were at 27??  Very, very few.  So to make that lifetime choice at that age really is ludicrous.  Unfortunately, the pace of life usually won't wait for a young person to "find themselves".  Rent, insurance, food, utilites....the bills won't wait for us to figure it out.  So we fall in....somewhere, college educated or not.