I am currently 12 years away from turning 30. Perhaps that sounds like an outstanding amount of time, and while it is, I’m 18 years old. Time and time again, history has proven that 30 years is more than enough time to change the world. Time and time again, we’ve had to watch 30 years, such a young number, turn into a lifetime. We have seen this too many times in many artists who were able to produce life changing pieces of artwork before leaving this world suddenly –– all before the age of 30.
My favorite book of all time, “Wuthering Heights,” was written by Emily Brontё, an English author, who wrote only one novel before passing away in 1848 at the young age of 30. “Wuthering Heights” is now praised as a literary classic, despite its condemnation upon its original publication in 1847. The book was criticized for its vivid sexual power and passion, along with its controversial storyline during a time when villainizing men in literature was uncommon. It is one of the first stories ever published to follow a woman betrothed to one man and in love with another. Brontё’s revolutionary piece of literature paved the way for a new era of Gothic romance literature. One can only imagine what else she would have written had she survived the tuberculosis that took her from the world.
There are a multitude of examples of revolutionary artists passing away very young. Sylvia Plath, who died at age 30 as well, also only published one novel (“The Bell Jar”) along with countless poems which have been compiled into poetry anthologies today. Her husband Ted Hughes claims she was working on another novel around the time of her death. Jimi Hendrix left us at age 27, poet John Keats was 25, Amy Winehouse was 27 and Heath Ledger was 28. Such little time on Earth, yet what an impact they were able to make.
It’s difficult to think about how the world would be different if these artists were given more time to create their art. I wonder often what Brontё would have written next; if there would be a sequel about life on the Moors. I wonder if she would have rested her pen and written nothing more. I wonder if Amy Winehouse would have given us another album in her unmistakably raspy voice. If Heath Ledger would star in all the movies we watch or if he’d win another Oscar.
It’s also difficult to wonder whether their art would have had the impact on the world that it does because they are not around anymore. How many more people bought Amy Winehouse’s music on iTunes, purchased “The Bell Jar” or watched “The Dark Knight” because these authors, musicians and actors are no longer around? It has become more alluring to stare at these people on the screen, listen to their voices and read their words because it is known that they are never going to portray a character, sing a song, write a word again.
Unfortunately, we will never know what could have happened had these artists lived for another 10 or 20 or 30 years. We must simply take the art they were able to give to us in the time they had and celebrate it. It is our job to take all the inspiration pent up into every single gorgeous page of “Wuthering Heights,” every single ounce of soul bleeding between the lines of “You Know I’m No Good,” every shouted whisper filling the cracks of “The Bell Jar” and use them to make our own art. We will never know what could have been, but we do know what is and what these people left us are our most treasured gifts, even if they left us soon after.