Telling stories to FIX things.

Yesterday I walked onto the FIX18 stage and gave the talk of my life. After riding the creative writing rollercoaster for the last year and getting by with a lot of support from my raft of otters, I did it! I was buoyed by the kindness of the room and then walked right out to Central Park with a full on vulnerability hangover, where I sat on a rock a sobbed. My soul was exhausted and fulfilled. It was transformative and indescribable to share my truth, and to be seen and heard and affirmed in that space. It was even more amazing to hear that my story reached many others in a meaningful way. That brings me so much joy!

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I am rooted in gratitude for the many, many, many people who held me up and helped me tell that story yesterday. It was a labor of great love, requiring many tears, many tissues, a lot of chocolate and a very wonderful team on both the family and professional fronts. I’m grateful for everyone’s patience and kindness with me as I struggled through the creative process.

I look forward to continuing to share this talk with you through the video that was recorded and through a blog post to come. For now, please read Audre Lorde’s words from the Transformation of Silence into Language and Action. When I first read it, I was struggling with how to put my talk about “Coming out as Human” into words – to take all my big feelings and my lofty ideas and put them into a story that made sense. I read that essay and I thought “Ah-ha! She did it! She already wrote my talk!” And then I wrote my talk. Thank you to Audre Lorde for writing her big feeling and her lofty ideas down so that I could read them today.

The whole FIX18 conference was wonderful. My soul feels rekindled. I connected with colleagues near and far. It was delightful to spend time with folks that I see frequently online but so rarely in real life, and to enjoy the time in their presence. I am also exhausted. I have been trying to drink from the firehose for the last 2 days and it was overwhelming.

I am still very angry.

Different people have different feelings on rage: some think it’s dangerous and to be suppressed, some embrace it. Rage is complex. I am a proponent of productive rage. My rage comes from a good place. My rage is nonviolent. My rage is loving. My rage comes from a place of knowing that we have the tools to do better than we are doing. Of wanting more from us. My rage is impatient. My rage doesn’t understand why there is preventable suffering in the world when we have so many tools that we could use to fix it.

I spend a lot of time alone, raging into the void. I spend a lot of time raging about lofty ideas about changing the culture of power in medicine. One of my favorite parts of FIX18 was meeting real live humans who said they appreciated what I write and that it is meaningful to them. That brought me so much joy. Ego aside (it’s always lovely when people say nice things!), writing is quite lonely. Twitter is fun but can get a bit intense. To know that something I wrote brought joy or meaning to someone makes it all worth it. Thank you for sharing that moment with me.

Back to the void - I do love talking about lofty ideas, like how we need to shift from focusing primarily on knowledge translation in medical education towards sharing collective wisdom. How we need to break down our professional silos and be more interprofessional to truly work as a team and serve all patients. About how we need to fight the systemic societal and economic injustices and biases that keep medicine as an ivory tower instead of a profession that reflects our communities. About how gender bias is exhausting and how we need men to speak up, too, and do some of the heavy lifting around here. I believe that we can create professional spaces that focus on wisdom and knowledge, that reflect diversity and inclusion, that advocate for justice and equity, that encourage authentic and transformative leadership.

So why don’t we have those spaces? I raged on Twitter recently in response to some thoughts about how ACEP is an EM conference that I don’t participate in because it doesn’t fit any of those criteria. Some responses fit into the model of excuses about why that’s so hard.

Well, FIX did it. Last year was great. This year was amazing. Next year, lessons will be learned and things will continue to grow.

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Fix Speaker Eva Niyibizi said “If you need something and it doesn’t exist, create it.”

We needed this space. We created it. The organizers literally created the space, and everyone who spoke, attended, and participated created the space. We made this.

Pik Mukherji wrote: “#FIX18 is like Lilith Fair. At first they said it was good for female groups. Within a few yrs. they said it was good for music. We'll look back and notice that #FIX18 was good for EM.”

FIX shows us all what is possible in our profession, and then also serves as a call to action. We can do this. We need to do this.

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We’re all hungry for this. I’m exhausted because I was so hungry for this, I got overwhelmed in my rush to take it all in. I want this to be my every day. I want the ideals of justice, equity, collaboration, curiosity, respect, diversity, authenticity, and shared humanity to be the ideals valued in my workplace, and in my profession at large.

Not every professional conference needs to be exactly like this one. But we need to create spaces where we can belong. Where we can tell our stories. Where we can safely break our silences. Where we can share the collective wisdom of the tools and resources that worked for us so that others can use them, too. Where we can both support and challenge one another to grow. Emergency physicians of all genders are hungry for this. I imagine all physicians are. I imagine our interprofessional teams of nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, paramedics and social workers are hungry, too.

We need more spaces like this one to tell our stories. We need more of our existing spaces to become like this one. We’ve seen what’s possible. The bar has been raised. Now it’s time to fix things.