Working Around MS

It was about the time of my sixtieth birthday that my MS started to get twitchy. It was as though it were awakening after a long sleep. Neurologist visits and scans would doubtless need to be done to find out what’s at the bottom of this but I’ll write about that in future posts. For now I needed to do something about work.

Since 2016 I had been working twenty hours a week from an office in town – about a 30km drive from my home in Diamond Harbour. When I experienced MS symptoms that weren’t severe enough to warrant a sick day, I’d work from home, but this didn’t always sit well with everyone and I was part of a team after all.

Thankfully I have income protection insurance which (almost) tops up my part-time hours to my full-time wage before I was diagnosed. As grateful and as I am to my employer who stood by me throughout my illness and subsequent diagnosis, I had reached a stage where I needed to have some control of my own situation, so I decided to return to working on a contract basis.

I had done this before back in 2000 doing database marketing work for retailers but by 2003 this work had slowly tapered off so I turned my attention to what I knew best – freight forwarding. I started doing some work with one of the logistics company’s – setting up their new website, doing company newsletters, formatting database marketing material and preparing quotes and tenders. One day I was asked to make a presentation of import air and sea freight rates as a tender document for one of the larger importers. Sifting through the bloated portfolio of rate information, I thought how good it would be to just enter a weight and measurement, put in the exchange rate and get an instant price without this chaotic jumble of impenetrable acronyms, ex works charges in different currencies, pick up rates with differing weight breaks and weight-to-volume ratios.

There was only one slight problem with this idea – although I knew that this could probably be done using an Excel spreadsheet, apart from being able to do the basics of adding and subtracting, I didn’t actually know how to use Excel properly. Certainly not well enough to produce anything resembling the spectacular product that only existed inside my head! With a little bit of help from my son and his sixth form textbook, I eventually made my first freight costing calculator. The convoluted calculations going on in the background of my first 2003 version were almost binary in nature, but it worked like a charm! From then on, I continued to make the freight calculators as this work sort of followed me around. Even when I was gainfully employed elsewhere I’d often get a request from someone wanting their calculator updated with new rates or a new calculator made for a special customer. All the while I was constantly improving and adding in more features as I learned more about the mind-boggling capabilities of Excel.

So in August 2020 I reinstated my website and went back to the world of being my own boss and I’m enjoying it so far. Thankfully Covid hasn’t affected the logistics industry too badly* so in this sense I feel very fortunate that I have this to fall back on. Stress plays a huge part in MS and I’m hoping that having the freedom of working for myself will ease the stress a little and that hopefully I’ll see some improvement soon.

*Spoke too soon! This was the case at the time of writing this post. Since then the logistics industry has been thrown into a state of disarray … refer below links



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