10. Working Arrangements that Work.

“Just having another person there, and not even talking—though you can occasionally look up and say something—I get way more work done when there’s someone else there, I don’t know why.”

For better or worse, the world of work is changing fast. With the increase in freelance and contract work and the advent of telecommuting, more and more people have paying work that doesn’t come with office space. Working for yourself can be liberating, and working from home can be convenient, but both can also get lonely and isolating in the long run. People are trying all kinds of strategies and setups to get around that: co-working spaces, working in cafes, teleconferencing. What’s the best way to be with people while working independently?

When Ange had a job in a library, she would look at people working in coffee shops with longing and envy. Now she is one of those people, when she’s not in a studio, co-working space, or her own living room. Jessica is fascinated by offices and co-working spaces from an anthropological perspective, but finds that folks at her current co-working space don’t tend to come out to social events, even for free ice cream. Can meeting or working with people digitally—i.e., via videoconferencing—sometimes be as good as having co-workers? Do you want the people you work with to be your friends, or is it enough just to get along with them? And what would the perfect work setup look like?


Ange Friesen is a writer and creative strategist who describes her work as brand therapy for beautiful ideas and their people. Ange combines her background in marketing and copywriting with her training as a psychotherapist, helping creative people and companies figure out who they are and how to share their ideas with the world. Ange lives in Toronto and works everywhere.

Jessica Taylor followed her wife to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is currently a Research Associate at Harvard. As of her move, she now belongs to three book clubs and one reading challenge.

Show Notes.

Ange Friesen’s brand therapy website.

The Centre for Social Innovation is one of Toronto’s oldest and best known co-working communities.

Make Lemonade is a women’s co-working space in Toronto.

The co-working space in Malmö.

‘The flexibility is incredible’: When companies ditch the office, everyone's a remote worker (CBC).

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9. Artscape Gibraltar Point.

“I can go for the first few days avoiding people, but by the end of the week, always, I have an evening where I’m just itching to see people, and I end up checking the kitchen every fifteen minutes to see who’s there. Because I do get lonely when I work that hard, and it’s so nice to know that somebody’s going to turn up, and it’s generally somebody super interesting, who you can have a chat and a cup of tea with.”

Have you ever wanted to get away from it all—but not, you know, too far away? Would the idea of living communally with like-minded people appeal to you, if you knew you could go into your own room and shut the door and everyone would leave you alone? That comfortable balance of solitude and company is something many of us look for. It’s particularly important to artists and writers, most of whom need time alone to work, but draw inspiration and encouragement from talking to each other. For this episode, Megaphonic’s Chris Piuma and I took the ferry out to the Toronto Islands to visit Artscape Gibraltar Point, an artists’ residence designed to create an environment where it’s possible to find that balance. We talked to staffer Andrew Lochhead and several of the residents, and later I sat down for a longer chat with Anna Synenko and Julia Tausch, two writers who have returned to AGP many times over the years. The consensus, more or less: AGP is a great place to be alone—to hunker down and work, commune with nature, or even just sit with your loneliness for awhile. And when you start to crave company, there’s always the kitchen.


Julia Tausch is a writer living in Toronto. She wrote the novel Another Book About Another Broken Heart and has published fiction and essays in publications such as Hobart, CBC Arts, The Hairpin, and Bon Appetit. She is currently working on a memoir that investigates abledness.

After a long career in publishing, Anna Synenko now creates projects for film and television exclusively, producing original scripts in full feature, comedy, documentary, and factual. She currently has created two documentary series that are signed to a London UK television production company, is optioned to write a big budget historical film with another UK company, and her adaptation of Amanda Lear’s My Life with Dali is currently with a European producer based in Amsterdam and LA. She works closely with filmmakers to teach script writing or doctor existing scripts. Self-taught, she’s spent approximately 5 years nomadically moving around, writing scripts, developing shows, and honing her craft to make stories honest in the revealing, daring in the execution, and provocative in the telling.

Show Notes.

Photos from our visit to Artscape Gibraltar Point.

About Artscape Gibraltar Point.

Anna Synenko’s website, featuring a photo of her Artscape Gibraltar Point studio in winter.

Julia Tausch’s first novel, Another Book about Another Broken Heart.

Maurice Vellekoop.

Special Thanks.

A number of people contributed to making this episode happen: Daniel Rotsztain put me in touch with Anna, Julia and Luisa. Andrew Lochhead provided all the information I needed, plus a guided tour and introductions. Chris Piuma did the onsite recording, had valuable input into pruning and shaping the episode, and went above and beyond with the editing. And, of course, thanks again to all the Artscape Gibraltar Point folks who talked to us: Alicia, Eunice, Barbara, Rae, Luisa, Marina, Julia, and Anna.

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8. Having a Baby.

“Not all of my friendships have survived the transition into motherhood, which is unfortunate, but enough new people have come in that it doesn’t feel like a loss. It feels like an enrichment.”

Becoming a parent changes to your identity, and the way you relate to other people, in fundamental ways. In this episode, I talk to two of my friends about their experiences with childbirth and new motherhood, which, although it’s perhaps the most conventional of the many different ways of becoming a parent, brings challenges that still aren’t talked about much.

Beth wasn’t sure she really even liked kids, and she was afraid of becoming the kind of boring mom who “doesn’t get the Simpsons.” Allysun was looking forward to motherhood, confident she’d just carry on as usual with her baby tucked under her arm. When they had babies, both of them—in different ways—found the experience harder and more enriching than they could have imagined. They talk about the vital importance of friendships with other new moms; how different the social expectations still are for moms vs. dads; how those of us who don’t have kids can be supportive and stay connected, and how much it means to them when we make the effort.


Beth Martin has just completed a PhD in English literature and is currently working in research at the University of Toronto. She’s also a co-host of It’s Just a Show, another Megaphonic podcast. She has a four-year-old daughter.

Allysun Welburn is an elementary school teacher in Wakefield, Quebec. She has three daughters aged 10, 7, and 5 months. And she is currently obsessed with embroidery.

Show Notes.

The CBC story I mention is a segment of the radio series Out in the Open: “‘It’s not something we talk about…but it’s a real issue’: The isolation of new motherhood”.

Social.mom is a social network for moms.

Pierre Robin Syndrome.

The sad story of Sesame Street’s David.

The New York Times story, “Motherhood in the Age of Fear”.

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7. New in Town.

“I kind of grew up on the internet, with a lot of friends in different places all over the world. I don’t see a distinction between internet friendships and ‘real’ friendships. So when I moved, most of my friendships didn’t change at all, because they were already based on internet communication or on phone calls.”

You’re moving to a new city! It’s an exciting chance to start fresh, maybe re-invent yourself a bit with a whole new social circle. But are you going to lose the friends you made in the last place you lived? And how will you start meeting new people? Eva always brings her violin with her; she says “orchestras always need violins”, so she can usually find one to join just about anywhere. Daniel doubled up on re-inventing himself the last time he moved—he became “Dan” and “Professor Price”, with two very different corresponding wardrobes. We talk about how landing in an academic department makes moving easier, as does growing up and becoming more confident; how people used the internet to meet each other before social media was invented (blogs! Meetup groups!); and how one or two dedicated extroverts can hold a group of friends together even when they scatter geographically.


Eva Amsen is a former biochemist who now works as a science writer and communicator. She has lived in Amsterdam, Quebec City, Toronto, Cambridge (England), and now London, where she plays in orchestras, browses bookstores and wanders the city.

Daniel Price is a preacher’s kid and former zoo-keeper from New Brunswick who is completing a PhD in medieval religion at the University of Toronto, where he studies the weird and violent world of Merovingian saints. He has held positions as a lecturer in history at the University of Saskatchewan and a volunteer god of chaos in a large online text MUD, and he spends his free time helping to develop equity and accessibility policy for his union local. He lives with his delightful partner and a handsome cockatiel who never stops whistling.

Show Notes.

“Making a New City Your Home.” New York Times article citing Melody Warnick, author of This is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are.

The blog of Brett Lamb, featuring the last of his famous photo stories.

The London Euphonia Orchestra, Eva’s current orchestra, performs Georges Bizet “Les Toréadors” from Carmen Suite No. 1.

The Doctor Who Fan Orchestra performs “Donna’s Suite”.

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6. Parties for Non-Partiers.

“When you walk in, and you're looking at people, and they give you that vacant look—for me, that determines how long I stay at a party. Like, is this worth exerting my energy and trying to be social?”

Neither Chris nor Diane went to parties as kids; they were bookworms with inconveniently timed birthdays. Chris doesn’t like fun, at least not of the roller-coaster, wild-party variety. Diane went through a carefree going-out-a-lot period in her twenties, but sometimes feels like she’s getting less sure of herself as she gets older. Naturally, these were the people I thought of for an episode about parties.

After all, a lot of us are a bit ambivalent about the whole party thing. So, for non-party people, what makes a party actually enjoyable? Is it better to show up early, or late? When you realize you’ve been talking to someone for too long and you want to circulate, what do you do? All this, plus an analysis of “friend flirting” as opposed to “real” flirting!


Diane Campbell is an associate producer at CBC News. In her down time, she’s one of the co-hosts of Sip & Bitch, a podcast pairing generous servings of alcohol with a variety of topics related to culture.

Chris Piuma has done a lot of different kinds of creative work: music, poetry, graphic design, photography, and more. He’s a co-founder of the Megaphonic podcast network—and one the hosts of You’re Not Funny, a podcast about NOT doing comedy.

Show Notes.

The Northeast Blackout started on August 14, 2003, which is relatively recent in geologic time.

You can listen to Sip & Bitch on Soundcloud, iTunes or Stitcher.


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5. Talking to Strangers.

“At some point, wasn’t it easy just to walk up to someone in the playground? It wasn’t a struggle to say something appropriate.”

Anesh never lets a language barrier stop him from talking to anyone he meets, and he doesn’t think you should either. His Toronto ESL students become confident English speakers by starting conversations with strangers in public places.

When a multiple homicide in Robbie’s Florida community hit close to home, he wanted to do something to help. So he began a foundation to encourage strangers to talk to each other—to comfort and support each other, and to find solutions to problems like gun violence. He believes he’s not “training” people to talk to strangers so much as reminding them how to do something most of us instinctively understood as children.

We chat about the great things that can happen when people start talking to each other; the things that can go wrong, and how to handle them; and the best way to start a conversation out of the blue (a simple compliment goes a long way!).


Anesh Daya has been teaching, managing, and developing English as a second language (ESL) programs in Taiwan and Canada since 2001. In 2009, he started On the Spot Language, an innovative activity-based English language immersion program, which he developed to help students effectively use their English outside the classroom. On the Spot Language has won several awards, including the Jusoor Disruptors Lab Competition. In 2017, students voted it BEST ESL school in Toronto.

Robbie Stokes Jr. holds a degree in Management Information Systems from Florida State University. After graduating, he launched Stokes Consulting Group; he also assisted the national president of his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, in Atlanta, GA. He relocated to Washington, D.C., where he was an event coordinator for a congressional delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. Finally, Robbie decided to follow his dreams, and founded “I Talk to Strangers”, a social movement whose philosophy encourages and challenges individuals to create genuine relationships through meeting new people. His motive is to push a new idea: that meeting new people increases personal and professional opportunities, experiences and lessons learned. Robbie has traveled the world, meeting people, documenting his journey through a soon-to-be-released film and book, participating in numerous speaking engagements, and encouraging everyone he meets to talk to strangers.

Show Notes.

On the Spot Language, Anesh’s Toronto-based ESL program.

The I Talk to Strangers Foundation.

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4. Social Awkwardness.

“As I tell this story, I’m so red! Me being naked... well, it rarely helps a situation, but it definitely didn’t help in this situation.”

Ah, social awkwardness: Where would comedy be without it? I think it happens when the scripts our social interactions follow get disrupted, and nobody knows what to do next. Rebecca has some theories about it, and also the funniest stories. Michael thinks it has to do with an excess of caring and self-awareness. What separates awkwardness from worse things, like bullying, is that the latter involves deliberate malice on someone’s part. But being bullied can make you more self-conscious, and therefore more awkward.

[This episode includes a discussion of bullying and homophobia.]


Michael Collins grew up a weird kid in a small Newfoundland town. He moved to Toronto in 2009 to pursue a Ph.D. in English literature, but eventually the scales fell from his eyes and he left academia. Now he is a personal trainer whose life goal is to be Julia Child, but for lifting weights. He is good at his job but still suffers from an impossible-to-suppress inappropriate laugh. He hosts the Megaphonic podcast This Is Your Mixtape.

Rebecca Norlock grew up in Brantford, Ontario, moved to Toronto to pursue a degree in social work and has now been a social worker in downtown Toronto working in homelessness and mental health for 25 years (so she is obviously very wealthy and has very low blood pressure). She is a single mother to two and a half kids (the half being her daughter’s boyfriend, who has lived with her since he was 17).  When not working or parenting, she is making out with her cats Hero and Pepper, hanging around her many weird friends, or reading.

Show Notes.

Selfie Bee on Tumblr.

A handy roundup of all the Selfie Bee strips we talk about in this episode.

Fleshlights [NSFW].

Bunz Trading Zone.

Three’s Company.

Mary Tyler Moore.

Kate & Allie.

Famous Comedians vs. Hecklers.

Zach Galafinakis.

Socially Awkward Penguin.

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3. Sociability and the Single Woman.

“When I was in my 20s, a part of me wanted to feel normal by society’s standards. I wanted to be married so that I didn’t feel odd. And that’s a terrible reason.”

As a “relationship virgin”, I wonder whether I even want a relationship anymore, or just feel like a weirdo for not being in one. Melissa describes her current status as “willfully single”—she’s focusing on building other meaningful relationships in her life. Sabrina’s single and looking, but has also just bought a house with five friends; is that really any weirder or riskier than getting married? We also talk about strategies for making new, close friends when you’re past your twenties; planning way ahead, financially and socially; and how being single isn’t the same as being alone.


Sabrina Bowman is a 35-year-old single woman who loves her bike, Kensington Market, running an environmental nonprofit called GreenPAC, dance parties, doing lunges, and delighting in the wonderful people of Toronto,

Melissa Brizuela grew up in the suburbs of Toronto and moved downtown while she was an undergraduate student at Ryerson. She loves the challenges and rewards of her day job in higher ed, but she's still trying to find her "life's work". She loves to sew, but does her best creative work in the kitchen.

Show Notes.

“I’m a relationship virgin: I’m 54 and have never had a boyfriend”.

The book by a twentysomething homesteader that Melissa mentions is Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Woginrich.

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2. Siblings.

“We always have each other’s back. It’s the defining feature of our relationship.”

Daniel is the youngest of three kids; Vanessa’s a middle child from a large, blended family. We talk about how older siblings mold the younger ones’ tastes and ambitions, how sometimes staying good friends with your siblings as adults means setting some boundaries, and how the one thing that always brings you and your brothers and sisters together is making fun of your parents.


Dr. Vanessa Lehan is contract faculty at York University in Toronto, where she teaches critical thinking to undergrads. She works primarily in the area of philosophy of logic and also sometimes publishes on pedagogy.

Daniel Rotsztain is the Urban Geographer, an artist, writer and cartographer whose work examines our relationship to the places we inhabit. He is the author and illustrator of two colouring books: All the Libraries Toronto, featuring every branch of Toronto Public Library, and A Colourful History Toronto, featuring Toronto’s historic sites. Recently he worked with Lindsey Lickers and Art Starts on the Cartography 17 project, a giant, collaboratively made, decolonized map of Toronto. His work has also appeared in Spacing Magazine, the Globe and Mail and Now Magazine.

Show Notes.

Adult Siblings Can Make Our Lives Healthier And Happier.

The episode of The Imposter featuring Daniel’s brother is Episode 35: Justice for Cartoon Jonny Rotsztain!

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1. Gezelligheid.

We kick off with an episode about togetherness, and some of the many different ways to find it. I call my mom and ask her about the Dutch word for the opposite of lonely. Dylan talks about confraternities, which were basically the meetup groups of the Renaissance. Wendy talks about how public libraries are evolving to include maker spaces and “urban living rooms” where people can learn and make things together. Was socializing simpler for our parents? How can we make it easier for ourselves?


Dylan Reid is one of the founders of Spacing, a magazine about Toronto's urban landscape. He is Spacing's books editor and the author of the Toronto Public Etiquette Guide. Dylan is also one of the founders of Walk Toronto, a grassroots advocacy group. He has a Master's degree in history and is a fellow at the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies at the University of Toronto, and has published several academic articles on urban culture in Renaissance France.

Wendy Banks is a librarian at Toronto Public Library, where she has helped to establish cultural programs including the Eh List (Canadian) Author Series, the Museum + Arts Pass program, and author talks at the Appel Salon at Toronto Reference Library. She currently works as the Digital Content Lead for the Collection Development Department, where she uses the internet to help people find out about all the different things they can get from the library.

Show Notes.

Petra Halkes’ website.

Census 2016: More Canadians than ever are living alone, and other takeaways.

The Toronto Public Etiquette Guide by Dylan Reid is available from Spacing.

Shelve Under: Podcast! Coming from the Toronto Public Library this spring.

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0. Coming Soon.

Coming soon! The Opposite of Lonely is a podcast about how people find and create community and social connection. Each episode, Nadia will sit down with a couple of interesting guests and discuss how people create community and social connection these days. We’ll focus on the relationships that don’t usually get discussed on “relationship” podcasts — with friends, siblings, even coworkers. We’ll try to pin down what gives us a sense of togetherness, and what puts the quality in “quality time.” Being unlonely these days is a work in progress. It can be challenging and confusing, and most of us are still figuring it out. Let’s talk about it. Come hang out with us!

The Opposite of Lonely will begin on March 21, 2018, at Megaphonic.fm.

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