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Five Things: Dawn Howard On Ireland, Grief, And Political Transformation

Scotty Perry

This week's guest on Five Things is an accountant who's finally figured out how to use her skills to support the things she believes in.

Let me explain -- Dawn Howard has experienced a political transformation over the past few years. She describes herself as a former Republican who is now "super-left," as she says, and she says that change started when she broke her ankle while living in Ireland. (Listen to the episode to learn how that makes sense together.)

She recently quit her job as a corporate tax professional to open her own consulting firm, and that led her to becoming a paid staffer for a political campaign: she's now the finance director for Dan Canon's Congressional run in Indiana's 9th District.

Dawn is a friend of mine, and that's why I knew she'd be great in this context -- she's unusually open about her challenges in life, and she talks about serious things in a really smart, funny way. I'm so glad to share her story here. Listen in the player above.

On why she chose accounting as a profession:
"I noticed that for some reason, accounting came to me way easier than it seemed to anybody else in the class. It still does -- all the debits and the credits and all that stuff, it just clicks immediately, and it's the easiest, most logical thing in the world to me. And so at that point, I was very much like, it's not about what you want to do, it's not about passion, I'm not going to be an astronaut, I'm not going to be an actress, I'm not going to save the world. This is a thing that's going to get me a job, so I'm going to be an accounting major."

On moving to Ireland by herself to work:
"I learned a ton about myself there. I was by myself for the first time there. I did a lot of walking on the beach by myself there, thinking about lots of stuff, most notably it's where I became the liberal that I am today."

On speaking about her own struggles with mental illness without stigma:
"I'd been for a very long time a person that was all talk and very little action in this area. Telling people that, you know, there's no shame in getting therapy, go get therapy. There's no shame in taking meds, go take meds. Mental illness is like any other illness, and we should treat it that way -- all the while not going to therapy, not taking any meds, thinking that if I was less lazy, if I would exercise, if I would have my life together a little more, that everything would be better. But eventually, I finally stuck in with a therapist for a while, got a diagnosis, went through all the processes of the trial-and-error of the meds. And there is no one answer, but it is an answer."

Five Things is available wherever you get your podcasts.