Senior Column: Winter Soldiers
“The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” – Thomas Paine, “The Crisis.” 1776.
And from this text, Americans created a new term, “Winter Soldier.” The Winter Soldier is the man who stands his ground when the odds are against him, when life has thrown nothing but adversity in his way. The Winter Soldier is the individual who was robbed of what was gainfully his, and has little left to do battle.
At least, that is what I had thought the definition was. Through my time at Penn State, I learned what it meant to be a true Winter Soldier.
When I first arrived in Happy Valley, I was a staunch individualist. The only person whom an individual must care for is himself. My beliefs even approached the philosophy of objectivism, that it was immoral to help others without taking into account one’s own needs. Even the football games in Beaver Stadium were about the individual stripping his identity for the masses, which confounded me. I believed that all choices a person makes must be on the basis of personal rewards. Problems must also be solved by the individual who is facing them, without help from other people. I told myself that I would persevere through a crisis single-handedly since I am an American, and an American man never backs down from a challenge or requests aid lest his peers judge him unfavorably.
The Universe can thwart the most thoroughly designed of plans. In December 2011, my rigid, frontiersman attitude would be challenged by my greatest enemy: myself. I succumbed to a panic attack that my anxiety exacerbated into an affliction of indescribable horror. After days of fighting my fears with no improvement in my state of mind, I sank into a wretched depression. I tried to climb out of this pit by any means I could find. All that my search yielded was darkness and misery.
That is, until I asked for help. Until I communicated to someone what my problems were, I was a lost soul. I am very fortunate that our University provides a center, Counseling and Psychological Services, for people whose troubles have driven them to the edge of despair. I asked, begged for assistance from CAPS. I could no longer persevere on my own. I needed help from others, which takes a lot of courage for an American man to admit.
And I found help. And I got where I needed to be. The staff at CAPS and the doctors beyond worked with me to overcome my depression and anxiety. My mind has never been clearer than where it is now.
Being a Winter Soldier is not the measure of a man who thinks he stands firm during a crisis. A Winter Soldier is one who knows how to stand with others. The Winter Soldier leads his or her peers through adversity. And when the problem turns into something beyond what one can handle, the Winter Soldier asks his or her compatriots to guide him or her to safety. The Winter Soldier does not act merely as an individual. Winter Soldiers rely on each other through the times that try men’s and women’s souls.
Penn State, together we are Winter Soldiers. Not one of us should trudge through his or her life alone, nor should anyone believe that he or she has failed to qualify for help from others. Additionally, the path ahead for our University has many obstacles and unknown variables. Thus, it is imperative for us, Winter Soldiers, to approach them and to challenge them united. Only then can we be triumphant.