By Kevin Litzinger - November 18th, 2019
I wasn’t a very strong student, coming out of high school. I didn’t even graduate. I did manage to obtain a GED when I was 19, but at that point in my life, job prospects were dim. So I started washing dishes. It was hard work that paid crummy, but in the end, I was fortunate. I had stumbled into the world of food and I loved every minute of working in the restaurant industry. It’s fast-paced, exciting, creative and expressive. And it’s full of interesting and creative people. I love the Culinary Arts.
But love isn’t enough. Working my way up, through multiple kitchens and multiple roles, (including leadership positions) has taken a toll on my body. My knees are shot, and I am all but certain they won’t make it to retirement. I’m 37 with no retirement plan, and I was worried I wouldn’t make it that long. But that isn’t what really made me want to move on. It was the long hours on nights and weekends that I had to spend away from my family that made the decision for me. I was sick of dropping my daughter off at school at 8 a.m. and telling her, “I love you. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Knowing that I needed to do something and knowing what to do are two different things, though. From an attempt at community college in my early twenties, I learned that I probably could be successful at school if I had focus and direction. I needed a plan. First, I needed to know what drove and sustained me. I looked to my previous career and realized that the answer for me was creativity. It was easy to figure out: I had always wanted to be a writer. I didn’t (and never will) rule out the possibility of writing professionally, but I wanted more options. And then it hit me: What if I made my own video game?
I wasn’t ready to go back to school yet, so I worked two hours a night trying to learn to code after dividing my time between being a father and a cook during the day. I was trying to determine if becoming a video game developer was something I could pursue. While I coded, I became curious about the industry, so I read and read and read. Blog posts and internet chatroom discussions and anything that would tell me what working in IT would be like. I even flirted with the idea of trying to get into the industry on my own. The self-taught programmer is not uncommon, so why couldn’t I be one? I began sending out applications and drilling interview questions until I was exhausted. But the sting of rejection, for over 50 to 100 applications, finally helped me realize I didn’t have to teach myself.
I haven’t earned my credentials yet. I’ve only just enrolled in my first term here, at CSU Global. But I feel confident that I’m on a path that will work for me and set me up for success. I have sacrificed a lot just to get here. And even though I’m not where i want to be yet, I’m proud to say the one thing I haven’t sacrificed is my family. And that is the main reason I enrolled with CSU Global. If you are still on the fence about making your next step then I hope you take two pieces of advice from me: 1) Find something that will hold your attention. Then, dedicate two hours a day to it — and if you can see that time as a little fun, then it’ll pass like it’s nothing. 2) You don’t have to undergo your life change alone!
Kevin Litzinger is a stay-at-home father pursuing a degree in computer science at CSU Global.