Her phone chimed, the ringtone she set for important e-mails vibrating throughout the damp silence of her small room. She glanced at the screen. A job digest from a freelancing website she’d signed up on more than half a year ago. She paused her game right before her character stepped into a high dragon’s turf.


The elegant white gadget lit up with her touch. She opened her e-mail app and scrolled.

The job was way out of her beginner’s league — even though her English was always better than most of her peers — so she swiped the mail away to the bin.

She yawned and went to slay the dragon.

For all the flair she put into introducing herself as “a translator” to new acquaintances, she hadn’t actually earned a cent from translating — and not from lack of effort or enthusiasm. She had been regularly submitting work proposals in a freelancing website, with little to no results. She updated her professional profile several times a few weeks before, when she submitted one and unexpectedly got a reply asking for her résumé. She redesigned it in an hour after a few months of paying no mind to it, because it might’ve been the key to finally scoring a job, and because it had three bright colors instead of just two shades of one. (Such an abomination! What was she thinking?)

She sent the stylish new résumé to the potential client, then it was back to life as usual. And “usual” meant “playing her favorite games, and she’s pretty sure she’d regret it afterwards, but whatever, it’s not like she has anything worth doing.”

After two weeks of no news, she counted it as a lost cause, and thus she went back to slaying fictional dragons.

The first nineteen years of her life, it never occurred to her that she would one day reach saturation.

At first, she wanted to be a police officer, fighting against injustice. But the reality of violent racism brought her to ground, so she resigned her childhood dream, although she never stopped loving crime dramas.

And then she wanted to be an astronomer out of her love and curiosity for the expanse beyond the blue Earth sky. But she decided it would be hard to support her family as the firstborn child if she does, so she put the thought aside.

In high school, she met Chemistry and fell in love. She said she wanted to be a chemist, but she also wanted to help people, so she chose Pharmacy for college. But in the end of her second year, she found that she couldn’t comprehend her own notes when studying for exam and fell into depression. Her mother couldn’t stand looking at her eldest daughter spiraling into the depths of loneliness and beckoned her to come home.

Half a year later, she enrolled in Computer Science out of her affinity with technology, and all went fine until she froze again in her third year. She went into a dark place for a while, but this time she went to get help. It’d be less expensive than quitting again.

Help she did get, but a year still passed without progress. Her sister graduated ahead of her.

It took her every effort not to hate herself for being useless.


She was exploring a scorching desert when it came.

An invitation to work, it said. Translate Indonesian documents into English.

She asked her translator friend for advice on pricing, and then she went and sent her proposal. She was about to close her Chrome when a message came along with two photographed pages of an academic transcript.

“How fast can you finish the job?”

Her mind scrambled to form a reply and her hand trembled with excitement as she typed:

“Hello. This is my best time estimate…”

She’s not useless anymore.

Also published at on September 28, 2017.