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.

Guests.

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.

Guests.

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.

Guests.

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!

Guests.

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!).

Guests

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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