Clare Crawley was runner-up on Juan Pablo Galavis' season before stints on Bachelor in Paradise and Bachelor Winter Games

It’s been two years since her last appearance on reality television, but former Bachelor contestant Clare Crawley is back — in a big way.

“I’m so excited,” Crawley, 38, tells PEOPLE of being cast as the next star of The Bachelorette. “I’ve gone through a lot of personal growth in the last couple of years. And my goal has always been to find happiness — and love.”

In 2014, Crawley was runner-up on Juan Pablo Galavis‘ season of The Bachelor, before two stints on Bachelor in Paradise left her still single. The hairstylist did end up finding a connection on The Bachelor Winter Games in 2018, with Benoit Beauséjour-Savard. The pair got engaged that February, but split a little over a month later.

“We realized we were different and wanted different things,” says Crawley. “But we still totally stay in touch. And we root for each other and for each other’s happiness.”

Clare Crawley and Benoit Beauséjour-Savard
| Credit: Paul Hebert/ABC via Getty

As for the question of why Crawley would return to the franchise after several unsuccessful attempts at finding love, she is unequivocal.

“People always talk about, ‘Why would you go on the show again?'” she says. “But it’s common for people, especially my age, to go through relationships. And whether they are good or bad, you take something from them. [Each experience] has propelled me into a different level with myself.”

Clare Crawley
Clare Crawley
| Credit: Paul Hebert/ABC

This time around, “I feel like my age is really an asset,” says Crawley. “I’ve gone through twists and turns and I know what I will and won’t put up with. Twenty-three-year-old Clare had no clue what I wanted. And I’m glad that wasn’t the end of my love story because I’m such a different woman now.”

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When it comes to her suitors, fame-seekers need not apply.

“I get that there are a lot of perks that come along with The Bachelorette,” says Crawley. “But in the end, I want a man who I can bring home and watch TV with on a Friday night who doesn’t want to be in the spotlight.”

And ultimately, Crawley feels hopeful that this time, she’ll find The One.

“There have been plenty of times where I’m sitting alone on a Saturday night, thinking, ‘Am I ever going to find anyone?’ But I know what I want and what I’m looking for. And I’m ready to start the next part of my life.”

Crawley’s season of The Bachelorette premieres May 18 on ABC. Share your thoughts in PEOPLE’s exclusive Facebook group for fans of the franchise.