"my final question is ultimately if you were 23 years old would you pursue this career again or would you choose a different career?"
HELL NO, not even maybe. Straight up, don't do it, you'd make more money at Denny's or McDonald's, literally.
Autobody is a sunset industry on the back end of the 'bell curve', it is nearly as obsolete as buggy whips. It will take 5 years hands-on and $50,000 minimun in tools before anyone treats you as anything besides the shop mule or a trainee. That's after-taxes take home pay, (add sales tax - you're the end user). That's everything YOU don't ever get to do, Disney World, Vegas, ski trip to Aspen, ect.
5 years AND $50,000 is a colledge degree, it's also buying a few fixer-upper homes to turn-and-burn, rent them back to section 8 housing for guaranteed money and rate increases, or any other thing you want to do for a paycheck.
As a hobby it's fun, as a job it is actually the bottom of the barrel, don't do it.