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My dictionary tells me that to ‘hearten’ can mean one, or all of, the following:

1. Give heart to; inspire with confidence; rouse to energy and enthusiasm, animate, cheer.

2. Give physical strength or stimulus to

3. Cheer (oneself) up.

In relation to my experiences as a young(ish) person with cardio-vascular disease attempting to access an education at the inner city campus of the University of Sydney, the word ‘disheartened’ seems more pertinent.

I was very much looking forward to attending this university, with its delicate, fairy-palace-like Neo-Gothic architecture, wide, green lawns, and city sky-line views. I signed forms and stood in line for hours with hundreds of other students on Enrolment Day. I was chuffed to receive a free novel by Kate Grenville, an author who happens to be a University of Sydney alumni, and a particular favorite of mine.

Then lectures and tutorials started.

Parking was going to be difficult. That much was clear from the beginning. Just how difficult, though, I had no idea. Driving around, and around, and around the campus in my embarrassingly old and unwieldy Nineteen-Eighties car. In and out of the law library underground car park. Compromising more and more with the distances I was willing to walk.

The endless ‘walk, walk, walk, stop. Catch breath. Walk, walk, walk, stop. Catch breath.’ The other students a continually passing stream of bright colours, talking and energy, health, fitness.

The feeling started to set in weeks ago, and has been steadily building since, through layer upon layer of this ridiculous ‘walk, walk, walk, stop.’ Its a feeling of being on the outside. The feeling that University life is designed only for young, fit, active, healthy people. That I don’t fit here.

I would like to be able to ‘hearten’. To cheer up. To become inspired, confident, energetic, enthusiastic, and animated. To have, if not physical strength, then mental or emotional strength again.

There have been times in my life when things have been much harder, have required even greater effort, endurance, and will power. The only difference is that during those times, I was indeed, for the most part, inspired, confident, energetic, enthusiastic, and animated.

Well. Sort of animated. Mentally animated perhaps.

But perhaps now I’m just getting too old. I’ve done too much ‘walk, walk,walk, stop.’

Perhaps, in the end, its the repetition that gets you, the pure tedium of it. How much longer? How many more times must I put on a brave mindset – like winding a scarf around my neck against the cold – and keep walking? How many more times do I have to tell myself that I am doing the best that I can, that its worth it, that I just have to wait a little longer and get to know the place, and get into a routine, and then I’ll stop being so damn tired all the time?

Is there a time limit on optimism, and, if so, has mine arrived?

I need to ‘hearten’, but that’s the thing about being in chronic heart failure; over the years, you start to realise that you have less and less heart left.



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