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It could be wonderful: An inspired ode to Chance the Rapper

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JANUARY 13, 2016

The days of Juicy Juice are long gone and instead, I’m surrounded by a growing tower of thermoses and empty cups of Italian Roast — my desperate attempt to lift the 100-pound bags under my eyes. What used to be a part of my morning regimen is now nothing but a memory of a simpler time. But, for better or worse, I’m a lot older now and stuck going to a school with future presidents, CEOs and Nobel laureates.

I’m a minnow in a shark tank struggling to survive.

I thought about my privilege a lot this past semester as I sat in the overcrowded lecture halls next to a different, yet equally amazing individual each day. I’ve talked to interns from the Capitol, founders of startups and future authors. I’ve seen students march back and forth in front of Sather Gate, screaming until their voices are heard. I’ve watched students publicize criminal behavior that was otherwise swept under the rug. It’s easy to get lost in the prestige of UC Berkeley, to get sucked into the vacuum of awe that comes with the side effects of self-consciousness and anxiety — especially during finals week.

Every year, around December, a new pit aggregates in my stomach, my daily reminder that yet another year has flown by, leaving me just as directionless and stranded as before. I would latch onto a new song that would provide stability, a soothing voice that would keep me grounded. I exhausted the replay button on a song that will stick with me through many more memories and heartbreak than finals had to offer.

I used to love watching the aardvark go to school with his bunny friend on “Arthur.”  And this year, I found my anthem in “Wonderful,” Chance the Rapper’s cover of the “Arthur” theme song.

The theme song was a hinderance once, getting in the way of an enticing plot featuring a yellow-sweatered third grader facing new challenges each day. But now, I look it at as a sign of hope. Maybe I was too young to really understand what Ziggy Marley, the original singer, was saying before, but I do believe that Chance breathes a new life into it that we needed.

Chance’s unique rendition of the “Arthur” theme song starts softly with a variety of harmonies and a soft piano, soothing my loud, suffocating anxiety. All of the different voices and sounds that come together to create this magnificent concoction remind me that I’m not in this alone, that I should look to my fellow Bears as allies. Chance then slowly taps into the raw passion he’s known for by elevating his voice and putting more force behind the words he’s saying. And as soon as the drums appear, so does my smile.

Chance the Rapper reminded me why I picked UC Berkeley in the first place, why pulling my hair out during finals week was worth it and why I should smile when I meet yet another inspiring individual — because it’s another unique voice being heard.

He transported me to my childhood in a way that turned nostalgia into hope, that reignited my ambition and upraised the value of passion. It took me this song to realize that at the end of the day, we really aren’t the competitive robots I thought I was surrounded by.

We are people.

We are unique individuals with an original point of view who can really benefit from working together. We are future lawmakers, future business owners, future politicians, all gathered together in this institution fueled by passion — complexities a song catered to third graders could not convey. But now that I’ve got a few more years under my belt, I see what Marley was getting at.

It’s an infectious rhythm that elevates the third grade hymn to a message of hope that an aardvark couldn’t convey. The trumpet’s upbeat sound coupled with the cacophony of men and women repeating the phrase “It could be wonderful everyday” instantly brightens my mood. I actually believe them. It really could be wonderful everyday, if I allowed myself to see it that way. And I should.

Chance isn’t wavering in his confidence. And neither should I. He is reinforcing the fact that he’s going to keep going, he’s going to keep fighting. So should I. He says each sentence as though it’s written in stone, that nothing can break him and nothing can break me. His screams aren’t screams of weariness like mine; his yell is one of power, a commanding force that he is alive and present. And I should be, too.

Just like the verse Chance added to the original song:

“I’m gonna get by when the going get rough

I’m gonna love life ’til I’m done growing up

And when I go down

I’mma go down swinging

My eyes still smiling

And my heart still singing”

You should, too.

Contact Ilaf Esuf at [email protected]. @dailycal.org.

JANUARY 13, 2016