If someone would have told me after being completely heartbroken in Jamaica that I would become the Bachelorette, I would have thought they were crazy! In all honesty I was completely blindsided when Ben broke up with me, it left me hurt and confused. But, if there’s one very important thing I learned from my experience on The Bachelor, it’s that I deserve to be happy and I am 100 percent ready to fall in love. When I packed my bags and got on the plane leaving Dallas, I felt nervous for what was to come, but extremely lucky and excited to meet the 26 incredible men who put their lives on hold for a chance to find love with me! Though, to be honest, the hardest part about leaving home was saying goodbye to Jackson, my dog! I left him in the precious hands of my parents who promised to send videos while I was gone, and to be honest, those videos got me through a lot of hard times!
Returning to the Bachelor Mansion for my chat with the ex-bachelorettes was surreal. It brought back a rush of emotions, but also just some really good memories from last season. When Ben was out on dates, we did everything we could at the house to try and not think about him romancing one of the other women. Becca Tilley (my BFF!) and I would fill our days painting our nails in the kitchen nook, attempting yoga in the living room, and raiding the snack cabinet for chips and candy. Becca is a huge part of my life, and she was actually the first phone call I made after I was announced as the Bachelorette on After the Final Rose.
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I go to Becca for a lot of advice, but heading into this new role I wanted to talk to women who had stood in these heels before me… So turning to Ali Fedotowsky, Des Siegfried (Hartsock) and Kaitlyn Bristowe was exactly what I needed. I knew that each of these women could relate to exactly what I was feeling and could provide some much needed advice. Who else has dated 25 guys at the same time?! Each had such a unique journey as The Bachelorette and that experience led them to these exciting chapters in their lives. I could only hope at the end of this journey, I too would have my happy ending! The ladies gave me such wonderful advice, as well as their blessing on kissing that first night, but to be honest I was still nervous. After all, all the advice in the world couldn’t prepare me for this adventure. I told myself that no matter what I would follow my heart, and trust my gut.
As I got dressed for the night, everything really began to sink in. It could have also been the Chipotle burrito I scarfed down a few hours prior. Yes, I am obsessed with Chipotle! I can’t help it! Barbacoa, come to me! Okay, Chipotle sidebar over. Back to that first night. Pulling up to the mansion I was overwhelmed with emotions. I was nervous, anxious, excited, but overall extremely hopeful … hopeful that my future husband would be getting out of one of those limos. That night I began my journey with 26 incredible men and I felt like the luckiest girl in the entire world! Shout out to Chris Harrison for being so great to me that night and really helping to calm my nerves!
• For more about JoJo Fletcher’s journey to find love, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
Meeting the Men
By the time the first limo pulled up the driveway, I was ready. Bring on the men!! I just wanted to make them feel as comfortable as possible. I remember how scary that moment was for me during Ben’s season, so I really wanted to focus on helping to calm their nerves and reassure them as they got out of the limos. Too bad I couldn’t remember where I left my unicorn mask … but with these men, there was no shortage of memorable first impressions.
When Jordan stepped out I felt an immediate attraction; not only was he good looking, but it felt so natural talking to him. I mean talk about off to a good start! If the rest of these guys were anything like him I knew I would be in for a phenomenal journey. And I wasn’t wrong, because then came Derek, and then Grant. My nerves started to settle … with each sweet and charming personality, came a strong and sexy man behind it. A few guys even made it personal like Robby, who remembered my mother’s infamous champagne sip straight from the bottle during my hometown last season. Robby came prepared with a personalized bottle, which of course in Fletcher fashion, we sipped straight from the bottle. A man after my own heart and one I knew my mom would love. Now, I HAVE to talk about Wells … Wells brought All 4 One out of the limo with him. Talk about romantic! I used to jam to this song back in the day, driving around in my parents’ car, windows down, singing at the top of my lungs, so of course to sing along to them in person was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Some guys brought their own brand of humor, like Jonathan, who wore a kilt. I thought it was pretty unique, but to be honest I’m still not quite sure I get his joke. Am I missing something? Sal’s joke on the other hand was pretty funny; I can appreciate a guy with a ballsy sense of humor! But I think my favorite entrance was from Luke who rode in on a real unicorn! Come on a hot guy and a unicorn, so much yes!
After that last limo I couldn’t wait to get inside! I was so excited to finally sit down and talk with these men, not only because I couldn’t wait to know more about them, but also, because man were my heels killing me! When I did finally sit down, Alex was someone who really impressed me right off the bat. Firstly, he’s a handsome Marine, but he was also so open and sincere. Then there was Saint Nick. Now, in my family Christmas only comes once a year. But with Nick, I could tell I’d be in a holiday spirit all the time. What a character! For someone who made me laugh so much, there was actually a lot more under that beard than what first meets the eye. Then there was Will … let’s talk about that first kiss, shall we?! I have to say, my first kiss with Will wasn’t exactly as I had dreamed. To be honest, I don’t think I was fully prepared for it and actually got really nervous. He put me on the spot there a little, but I appreciate him putting himself out there. And he will forever go down as my first kiss as Bachelorette. Or will it? Was that a kiss? I’m still not sure! You tell me!
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I knew the night was taking a turn the moment Daniel jumped into the pool. Hey, I remember what it was like that first night; sometimes you need a drink to take the edge off. But some guys had one, two, three … I don’t know how many drinks they had to take the edge off. That edge was off! I’m all about having fun, but this experience is something that I take seriously and I just wanted to make sure that people were not just there to party. And then when Vinny and Nick S interrupted my interview, well, everything just got out of control. I started to lose faith, started to think that maybe I wouldn’t make the connections I wanted to make on that first night.
But the night picked up when I had meaningful conversations with guys like James T, who was not only a huge sweetheart but such a gentleman, and Luke, a fellow Texan who hand picked cowgirl boots for me as a gift. How sweet was that?! Or Chad, who shared a more vulnerable side to himself.
First Impression Rose
When Chris Harrison dropped off the first impression rose on the table, I had a lot of thinking to do. So many of these men really impressed me that night, I feel like a lot of them made great impressions. But, I couldn’t help but think of when Jordan stepped out of the limo, I knew there was a connection between us. It wasn’t until we kissed (my REAL first kiss of the evening) that I knew he had made a lasting impression. So, I decided to give him my first impression rose. And hey, let me put something else to rest right now. A couple people have asked me if I spoke to Jordan prior to that first night, and I can honestly tell you that at no time did we ever speak to each other. The first time we spoke was when he stepped out of that limo and said hello! Sure, his name had been leaked online and I knew a guy named Jordan Rodgers was likely arriving, but we never ever spoke. Okay, onto the rose ceremony.
I was in a whirlwind after all the events of the evening, but I knew the hardest part was yet to come … the rose ceremony. I remember standing there feeling so blessed to be The Bachelorette but also feeling so nervous about the responsibility that comes with it. Being on this end of a rose ceremony is so much pressure! I just didn’t want to make a mistake on this first rose ceremony, what if I sent home someone I had a real connection with?! I remember thinking, “I wish Jackson was here!” so he could just run to all the men he thought were best for me.
And then in true Bachelor fashion … the night took another turn.
Into the rose seremony walked former Bachelor Jake Pavelka. When he interrupted I was confused to say the least. (lets be honest, it was written all of my face!) I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on. Was he here for me? You have to understand, Jake is a very good family friend. He went to high school with my brothers, I’ve known him for years. And all I kept thinking was OMG is this person I look at as an older brother about to tell me has feelings for me?! So when Jake told me he just wanted to give me some advice and let me know how confident he was that I will find love with the men in that room, I was relieved, but also touched, that he would take the time to come and wish me the best and share some guidance on how to get through a Rose Ceremony.
I didn’t want to keep those poor guys worried and waiting too long. I could only imagine what was going through their minds. All of these men were so great, but in the end I knew I had to say goodbye to some of them. And I knew that my heart was all I could lead with in that moment. Saying goodbye to people is never easy, and that’s the hardest part of this whole journey. I am so lucky that all of these men came here to meet me, but I know I have to follow my heart and make the best choices for me. I knew that each hard goodbye meant one step closer to hopefully finding the man for me. In the end I felt confident in the roses that were handed out that night.
I can’t believe that is the end of my first night as The Bachelorette! I can’t wait for you guys to see what happens next! I went on some unbelievable dates in some of the most beautiful locations around the world. There are many many highs to come. There are also some devastating lows. Many tears were shed along the way, and not all by me. Oh, and we haven’t even really talked about Chad yet. Get ready. What happens with Chad is hard to put into words. You’ll just have to tune in to see for yourself!
The Bachelorette airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.