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I get to know a lot of people in their late teens and early 20s, as we hire them for bar backs and kitchen help. Some have their whole life figured out (or so they think), others have no clue as to what they want to do. I always try to pass along some ideas I’ve picked up over the years. For instance, I once read a book where the author had a great statement. He said that for most of us, our careers are determined as a teenager. Meaning that when we are in high school and "know everything," we start to figure out what we want to do for the rest of our lives. The problem is that when we hit 30 or 40, we are totally different people. You may have started out thinking you wanted to be a dentist and spent a ton of money and time on school, only to find out that you hate it and would rather do something totally different. Or maybe you went to college to be a teacher, only to find out that you are allergic to kids. And that’s fine. Nowadays, people change jobs more than ever. You have to remember that you only live once, and you shouldn’t go through life hating what you do. It’s fine to try out different things.

A very smart patron recently said his mantra is that you have to know what sucks so you can know what’s good. I experienced that myself a few years ago when I took a job at the steel mill. Now, don’t get me wrong. We are fortunate to have that mill in our city, but for me, I need air conditioning! Working in that environment is extremely hard, hot and dangerous work. (But it is a great place to lose weight without even trying!) I have a lot of respect for the folks who do that work. It’s just not for me. I had to get back behind the bar.

My daughter is in the process of opening her own yoga studio here in Auburn. Early in the planning, she asked me if she was nuts for doing it. I said that you have to ask yourself, "What’s the worst that can happen?" In my opinion, the worst thing would be not try it and, later in life, regretting that you didn’t follow your dream. (On the other hand, she may not be speaking to me in a few years.) You have to live by the old saying, "I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I didn’t do."

We had a saying in the Army: “What are they gonna do? Bend my dog tags and stamp my meal card, no dessert?” It’s kinda like that when making life decisions. As long as nobody goes to jail or gets hurt, go for it.

Another piece of advice is, when you get out of school, move to where you want to live before you get married and have kids. It’s a lot harder to uproot a whole family to move away than just yourself. Every winter I think of that as I’m shoveling a driveway full of snow and my big brother is sending me pictures of sunny days and palm trees in Florida. Oh well, as I’ve said: It’s never too late to make life changes.

Speaking of being cold, here’s an easy drink recipe that will warm you up: Hot cocoa with peppermint schnapps. Top with whipped cream and pretend you're in Florida. The more schnapps you add, the easier it is to pretend.

Hope to see you at the bar soon!

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Jeff Campagnola has been a bartender in Auburn for more than 30 years, and is co-owner and operator of A.T. Walley & Co., 119 Genesee St. If you'd like to ask him a question, email him at jcampagnola@msn.com. No hate mail, please.

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