“There’s just something about that time of night when you’re looking at the stars, you know who you are as a person.”
As “Sleep Talking” by Charlotte Lawrence played out from a speaker, Sophia Sullivan, then 16, and her twin sister, best friend and boyfriend watched the sunset over Lake McClure in Mariposa County, Calif.
It was a warm Saturday evening in late May of 2019 and they were on the top deck of her family’s houseboat. Nearby, another houseboat’s disco ball cast colorful reflections on the water in the small cove that their boat was buoyed in.
As Sophia watched the fading rays sparkle on the water, she felt completely at peace.
“That moment seemed like a minor thing, but it made me feel so satisfied and content with my life,” Sophia said. “There aren’t that many experiences where I feel genuinely content like that.”
In contrast, Sophia said that she often feels stressed during the school year. Although she tries her best to achieve the goals she sets, she often compares herself to others, especially when her efforts don’t produce the results she hopes for or when her life doesn’t epitomize the ideal high school experience pictured in movies.
“I know so many people who have accomplished so much and sometimes that makes me feel like I’m not doing enough,” she said.
But lying on the roof of the boat with the people she loves, Sophia’s felt her worries disappear.
“Being on the houseboat is like a little escape from reality,” she said. “It’s like living in your own little world for a weekend where you can reflect on everything.”
When the moon rose from behind the mountain and the stars appeared, the group lay downamong towels and blankets and stared up at the sky.
Sophia said that looking up at the stars made me feel she “was right where [she] was supposed to be in that moment.”
Although the conversation started off as light-hearted chatter, it soon shifted to deeper questions such as “What are your dreams?” “What do you fear?” and “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?”
Unlike in a normal setting where Sophia would shrug off deep personal questions — questions that make one explore the essence of who they are — in that moment, she began to truly wonder what the answers could be.
“There’s just something about that time of night when you’re looking at the stars,” she said. “Talking about [those topics] and trying to figure out those answers with the people who I love and trust the most helped me learn more about who I am as a person and how I want to grow as a person.”
Although Sophia already considered her sister, friend, and boyfriend as three of the most important people in her life, that evening made her feel even more connected to them.
“You really get to know people when you have these conversations because you get insight into how they think, and their aspirations in life,” she explained. “You get to know who they are as people.”
Then, they began discussing topics Sophia had always wondered about, yet never truly explored — questions such as “What do you think is out there [in space]?” and “Where do we come from?”
Even while discussing bizarre subjects like the possibility of extraterrestrial life, Sophia said she felt completely accepted, as the others were wondering the same things.
At around 1 a.m., the four gathered the blankets and headed downstairs to sleep in the main cabin of the houseboat. While they would leave the lake the next morning, Sophia knew that she would always remember the absolute peace and happiness she had felt that night.
“I feel like I take a lot of my life for granted, but I’m so lucky to live the life I live,” Sophia said. “This experience really made me recognize how lucky I am to have a houseboat, and to go to this lake, and have an amazing boyfriend and friends.”