I had only just changed into my scrubs and was mid way through tying the flimsy cord on the back of my hair cap when the all too familiar ‘ding’ of the call bell started ringing throughout the operating theatre complex. On my way out of the change room and toward theatre five I was greeted by the over-worked but ever cheerful nurses with a smile and a "happy Friday to you". I grabbed a mask and some gloves and found my fellow theatre technicians peering into the operating room through the glass window on the door. They were waiting for the anaesthetist to administer propofol, insert the laryngeal mask airway and turn on the ventilation; our cue that the patient was well and truly asleep and ready to be positioned for surgery.
The signal was received and we burst through the door to be met by the sound of Travis Scott’s ‘Antidote’ blaring through the speakers. Right away I knew who was working in theatre five that day. I assumed my position at the foot of the bed holding the patient’s leg up in the air by the ankle. The other theatre technicians and nurses attached hoses, connected fittings to the operating table and laid down sterile drapes in front of me. The surgeon came through the door with his registrar, casually chatting while holding his hands up, yellow iodine solution dripping down his elbows. He excitedly greeted me, turning on the spot as a nurse helped him into his sterile gown and gloves. “How long until the big exam?” he asked as he painted the patient’s knee with pink chlorhexidine solution. He was referring to the major hurdle that every aspiring doctor needed to jump before they could begin studying medicine; the GAMSAT. “It’s tomorrow” I replied. He rolled a protective covering over the patient’s foot, grabbed hold of him by the toes and gave me a ‘yep’ indicating that I could let go and slip out from the flurry of people now filling the room. “Good luck” he called out.
Everything was going to plan. I had finished my science degree at the University of Sydney, and had completed my honours project by working in a superstar pharmacology lab helping to characterise a seriously exciting new breast cancer drug that the group had developed. I was awarded first class honours for my efforts, the highest award for an honours project. My supervisor even allowed me to contribute to an article which was later published in the very prestigious journal, Pharmacology & Therapeutics. Soon after, I began working as a theatre technician at a top Sydney hospital gathering some first hand experience and insights into the life of a doctor that I envisaged for myself. All of the wheels that sixteen year old Adam had set in motion were now rapidly turning.
The GAMSAT exam came and went and I managed a very competitive score. Shortly after I received an email from the coordinator of the medical doctor program from my top preference medical school congratulating me on being one of 160 shortlisted for interview, beating 2,600 other applicants.
The interview process took over two hours and involved speaking to ten groups of local doctors, highly attuned to sniffing out sincerity, knowing full well that they were wholly responsible for choosing the next wave of doctors that could potentially join their ranks.
A month later I received another email from the coordinator of the MD program. I excitedly opened it, speed reading it’s contents, looking for the congratulatory invitation to study the course that I had worked so hard toward.
But instead there was a regretful apology that I was not successful in gaining an offer of any place.
The wheels had screeched to an abrupt halt.
I could always try again the following year but now I was faced with a new problem. What to do until then?
As I was applying for jobs I met with my good friend, Miles who invited me to work on my job hunt at a spare desk at the design agency that he owned, Chalk. The next day I came into the office. He showed me to a desk. I set up my computer and began working on some cover letters.
I couldn’t help but become entranced by what Miles and his team were working on. Illustrations that started as hand drawn sketches on a page, then came to life, swooshing and twirling on the screens of the artists who invented them. I couldn’t help but ask how it was accomplished and Miles was more than happy to show me. He joked that if my job search didn't work out I should become a graphic designer. We laughed.
Soon after I found myself playing around on adobe illustrator and after effects instead of writing job applications. I was completely taken aback by the fact that the thing I loved to do in my spare time; creating art, could be combined with my analytical and problem solving nature and done professionally. The more I did, the more I loved it. It didn’t take long for me to begin to consider the possibility that I had been a horse in blinders, running along on a path that was set by a sixteen year old boy. Could it be that the medical school interviewers could see this about me when I couldn’t? I decided to run an experiment to test the hypothesis and took Miles up on his offer.
Being a graphic designer is incredibly rewarding and just so much fun. I'm now working across projects for Chalk Co and Romper which is giving me insights into motion graphics, graphic design and digital marketing.
Every day I am presented with an exciting challenge and get to problem solve in a graphical language of which the vocabulary is huge. I am always so exited to come into the office to try out some new and interesting way to evoke a particular feeling in the audience or present information in a way that is accessible and aesthetically pleasing. I have finally wrapped my head around the adage “choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”. Corny, I know, but true nonetheless.
Everyone can understand good design and now I have the opportunity to create a tangible thing that people can appreciate. Better still is the effect that it has on the people who we do work for. Many of our clients are small, family run businesses. My work has real consequences in helping them find and communicate effectively with their target audience which means that they can provide services to the people who can really benefit from it. Further, those businesses are financially better off for it. It's not saving lives, but it's incredibly rewarding.