Saying Goodbye to Shangri-L.A / by grace mcgrade


Written September of 2017

As my gaze drifted over my almost empty apartment, I felt an unexpected surge of pride. This house certainly felt like the product of a distant spell, its entirety weaved out of my imagination. It’s entrance was guarded by an old, twisted tree that split into two at the roots, pointing its crooked branches at a gate. A two story bungalow, hidden from the harsh concrete glare of LA. A house with a balcony that overlooked a hidden garden path adorned with trees and plants that seemed to whisper responses to the breeze. The interior had high ceilings, dark wooden doors and secret cabinets. And in the corner of my room, a mirrored vanity room that was perfectly suited as my sacred magic space. I wanted to cry,  knowing I was letting it go- but I found a strange emotion run over my body. I silently thanked this home, for providing solitude and a brief place to heal when I needed it most. For reminding me of my magic.

And Los Angeles, my god- the city that spoke about everything, but carried nothing. A loud, beautiful, plastic, empty vessel. My formative cage. L.A was like hot best friend you can never keep up with- the bitch you want to emulate, until you find out that she has the depth of a tablespoon.


I searched deep for the feeling of loss, but it was alarmingly absent. I realized then and there, I would always be able to retain this place in my mind. As long as it could be retained in my memory, it was not lost. Why had I always assume the passage of time made me lose things?

I don’t know where this thought came from-it seemed too wise and foreign to have come from me. I tried to apply it to all the other things I had lost. London. Lindsay. Steve. And now, Los Angeles. Would I be able to visit them, in my imagination, too? Within the confines of my own mind? And if so, what made me believe that because it was in my imagination it wasn’t real? 

Loss has always affected me greatly. I remember returning home in my maroon school uniform in England, only to find four stuffed animals poached on the front step, looking disheveled and forgotten. I stormed in with rage, astonished by my Mom’s excuse.
“You are getting too old for them. You have too many.”

My 9 year old mind had created detailed narratives about these animals, given them personalities, names and character traits. The idea of parting with them was unbearable.  I silently smuggled them back to the safety of my bed, apologizing for my mothers insensitivity.

No one seems to talk about the mourning of growing up.

The older I got, the harder the loss. The loss of baby teeth and innocence rushed away. The loss of friendships that were sworn till death. The loss of moving out of London. The loss of words unsaid, moments taken for granted. Short lived loves that ended in chaos and tears. I bottle up this grief like lightning in a shadowbox, ignoring the prangs on my heart strings. Trying to face the weight of the world with a pokerface and my own lion energy, even though sometimes, there is nothing left to draw from.

The idea that there was a dimension within myself I could visit these places and things was of immeasurable comfort. A forgotten sanctuary of dreams. A place I could climb a wooden bunkbed and find myself sitting on the bright blue sky of my winnie the pooh douvet cover. I could regain the simplistic comfort and curiosity of childhood, skipping home from school and squishing paint in capsules on the floor of my moms studio. I could tell Lindsay I miss her, tell her I still use her trick to get rid of hiccups. I could go to a canyon on wonderland, alligned with a star, and hold Steve’s hand.


Time, with its unapologetic inevitability, has the ability to rid us of everything yet heal so much. An hour is never just an hour,  it is a myriad of emotions and perfumes, sounds, plans, thoughts and atmospheres..Every increment of time is pregnant with possibility, the branches of infinite reality drawn out in front of us, numerically marking each passing breath.

This space I held in my mind, in my inner world, was immune to the comings and goings of circumstance, immune to life and death and most of all, immune to time.