Name: Shannon Craig
Class: Heartland Class of 2009
Program: Business Essentials
Interviewer: Colleen Reynolds, Director of Alumni Relations and Outreach
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Colleen: Our latest alum in the spotlight is continuing his education at Heartland by pursuing his Associate's of Science, but already his education here has given him the confidence to pursue his dream of writing a book that’s now available on Amazon.com.
Shannon: My name is Shannon Craig. I work here at Heartland Community College. I am a graduate of the Business Essentials program in the Fall of 2009.
Colleen: Shannon, what led you to the Business Essentials program at Heartland?
Shannon: Well, I was working for ISU in 2008 and I left ISU for another job. And, in that job, my department closed soon after I came there. I was sort of lost on what to do and I had worked mostly within the food industry for so many years that I needed retraining. I needed to learn a new field.
Colleen: What were you doing in your previous jobs?
Shannon: I was a cook at Illinois State University for eleven years. I was working a little bit booking time share sales for a few months before the department closed.
Colleen: You landed at the Business Essentials program. What drew you to that specifically? What were you hoping to get our of enrollment?
Shannon: I did have some skills using computers, but I was hoping I would learn more about the business environment so I would be more capable of working in an office setting and have more background. Once I got into it, I found that I really liked helping the other students and I've become more towards the academic side of it, where I want to continue to help them on their paths and maybe eventually someday become a professor myself.
Colleen: So, let's move on to the other part of the story and that is you have written a book that has been published and it is available on Amazon.com. Tell us about that.
Shannon: The book's called "Indebted to Clutter and Enslaved to Consuming" and the subtitle is "A Short Look at How We Are Controlled by our Spending Habits and How to Take Back Your Life." It's a book about how reassessing what's really valuable in life. I mean part of it is just removing clutter out of your house. What I mean by clutter is things that do not add to your enjoyment of life that come in the way and how we get in habits of spending and buying and finding out that it's not really important in life. It's more the interactions with other people.
Colleen: How did the Business Essentials program influence your decision to write the book?
Shannon: The book itself, the sole idea I had in the back of my mind but never had the confidence to do it. In previous jobs, they never wanted your ideas, never wanted you to believe in yourself that I worked at. Here, they gave me the confidence to do it and they also gave me the skills with Microsoft Word to do editing and everything else. So, the book became easier for me to write once I had that skill set.
Colleen: The idea of the book, where did it come from? How long had you been thinking about writing it?
Shannon: I have been thinking of it for about five years. The ideas came from my own experiences in my life. When I was younger, I was in the habit of buying. I just kept acquiring more and more items. I realized there's no point to it. It's not really making me happy, it's just spending money to spend money. I had a lot of people in my life that I've known over the years that really have this problem as well. The reason I wrote the book was trying to help those people out, not necessarily those specific people but the general population.
Colleen: So, you had a spending problem. Would you say you were a shopaholic?
Shannon: I wouldn't say I was a shopaholic. I would spend money on things that were frivolous. I would go out and buy a new computer game or I would spend a lot of money eating out with my friends, going to the movies, things like that. I started realizing that I was just wasting money when they could be used for better causes.
Colleen: I checked on Amazon.com and there are a lot of books about clutter and clearing clutter and all of that. But you come at it from a little bit different perspective because you come at it from the consumerism, consumptive society that we are and approach it that way, don't you? It's a little bit different.
Shannon: Yes, it's about analyzing why you're consuming so much -- removing it from your life and then certainly expand from that more the spiritual side of it is what can I do besides being just constantly buying, trying to fill avoid, why we have the void inside us.
Colleen: It's a fairly small book. It's about 140 pages tops. You have some real practical list making approaches within the book, don't you?
Shannon: Yes, I do. I tried to keep the book small to reduce the cost to the consumer. Unfortunately, I still have to charge for it to cover the publishing costs. There's a lot of lists on evaluating your life and then also ways to do it and to clear out stuff. It even has a whole section about clearing out your house room by room and step by step -- what you should keep, what you shouldn't keep and also respecting property of others if you live with someone.
Colleen: You mentioned you had people in your life that you saw clutter affecting them. Explain that a little bit more.
Shannon: I'll give an example but I don't want to give the person's name too. A person that one of my family members worked for had a house that was filled completely from top to bottom, only had little paths where they could travel through. Every two days, she'd drive to one of the larger cities, fill her car with things from K-Mart or Wal-Mart wherever she could get -- clothing, kitchen items, whatever.(She would) bring them back to the house and keep stuffing it in. Her whole day was obsessively acquiring new stuff but she didn't even know what she had. She couldn't have people over. She was always worried about things happening to her items. It was really quite sad. She was probably one of the first and biggest examples of why I started writing this.
Colleen: What kind of reaction have you received to the book?
Shannon: So far, the people that have come to me and read it has been a positive reaction. The sales haven't been quite as much as I would like but then also I wasn't able to afford marketing at the time.
Colleen: Interesting, some of the questions you pose in the book including "Do I still need this house?" Tell us about that.
Shannon: Well, a lot of times people try to look to their means or beyond their means. The reason they have that is because they'll buy a house, they'll fill it full with clutter and think they have too small of a house because they don't have room for all of their possessions then buy a bigger house and they keep refilling it. Once you get that clutter out of your life, you'll be amazed about how much room you have in your home. You may decide it's too big of a home for me and I need to reduce the size of the house I have.
Colleen: Are you a much happier person after having gone through what you went through in simplifying your life?
Shannon: Oh yes, very much so. It's like a large weight has been lifted off my shoulders. It's a very, how do I say this, it's very freeing aspect. It's the only way I can say it. It's a lot less worries. The expenses have gone down quite a bit since I've moved into a smaller home and everything seems to be going well.
Colleen: What's next for Shannon Craig?
Shannon: Well, I'm continuing to work here at the Business Essentials program under Sandy Hoffman. I am hoping to stay with the program and help them out when the other students come in so they can enjoy the same experiences that I had. I have never met a group of people more dedicated to the development of a person than this department. I am writing a second book, this one at a request of someone for a fictional novel. But it probably won't be out for a year or two depending on how much time I have to write.
Colleen: How long did it take to write "Indebted to Clutter and Enslaved to Consuming?"
Shannon: Thinking about it, I had several years to do that but the actual writing process took less than six months. I already had most of the ideas of what I wanted in the book but I was also going to school during that time period so it took away the writing time. But it took about six months to write it.
Colleen: So for students who are currently attending Heartland either to get an Associate's degree or to take one class, what kind of advice to do you have for them?
Shannon: Right now, if you are attending Heartland, you have a unique opportunity because the college really cares about students. This is the time for you to explore what you want to do in life and get the training to do so. Take advantage of this, put time in your studies. The partying can wait until later. This is getting to be a point in your life where it can really change you for the better.
Colleen: Shannon Craig, thanks for sharing your story with us. The Heartland Community College Alumni Association is a great resource for professional development and networking. But, we also have fun while providing some great discounts for area events. For example, why not join us for opening day of the CornBelters pro baseball season. It's Friday May 27th. We have box seat tickets for a discounted $8. To reserve tickets, give us a call at (309) 268-8187.