Some thoughts on employability:
Kedaha has given you some sane thoughts in my opinion. Of course on one point, freelancing isn't what everybody wants to do or is comfortable with. If you are really good and can keep the contracts coming in then I agree, that might be the most satisfying. This might actually be the fastest route to being the "sys admin" who just sits monitoring servers, having the time to browse forums and only having to work when something "goes down", if that is your goal. Going to depend somewhat on your income requirements and ability to "sell" your skills. Might also matter how much time you want to work, having your own business means bookkeeping and taxes and all that stuff too, usually done on your own time without anyone else paying for it.
From your experience, you may already be familiar with many of the topics in the Debian Administrators Handbook, make sure you are familiar with them all.https://debian-handbook.info/
Practice your skills in this forum and others. Answering posts in forums gives you experience with users that have all sorts of skill levels and intelligence levels and personalities and that is what you are likely to encounter in IT, especially while you are in entry level positions. Sometimes, you may even know more than your supervisor.
As both srq2625 and pendrachken mentioned, "certification" is something that can help you get "in the door", it looks good to the Human Resources Department who often aren't really technically knowledgeable enough to assess whatever experience you've had. However, once in, your knowledge and the ability to solve real world troubles for average or even sometimes "stupid" users is something that could help you progress. Understanding people is a useful skill, it isn't going to matter much (at least at first) how good you are technically if after you've helped people they complain to the supervisor about "you".
These days, I doubt that you'd be offered a "programming" job without secondary education and a degree in Computer Science. But yes, scripting and the ability to understand scripts would be useful knowledge at whatever level you work.
Judging by your comment about school, you are a bit older than people usually hired for entry level positions and that might be a factor. I even hesitated to answer because you likely already know much of what I wrote. In interviews, be ready to detail how your life experience and maturity will help you in the job.
Why would anyone want to post here to brag about what they have done, this is not social media? I apologise if, as you stated, that is what you really want.