Rachel Lindsay blogs exclusively for PEOPLE about her first night in the Bachelorette mansion and how one suitor's "love language certainly spoke to me"


Rachel Lindsay vied for Nick Viall‘s heart on season 21 of The Bachelor, now she’s on her own journey to find love on the latest season of The Bachelorette — and she’s blogging about it exclusively for PEOPLE! Follow Rachel on Twitter at @TheRachLindsay!

As I sit down to write this first blog a million things are rushing through my head. It still feels so surreal that I’m the newest Bachelorette. I never expected this journey to be something that would ever work for me. When I first arrived at the mansion to meet Nick I was skeptical, and yet somehow found myself falling in love anyway.

As things neared an end in Finland, I was certainly looking towards an engagement. However, looking back, I know now that we weren’t meant to be. It’s taken time to get over the heartbreak and mild hypothermia that Finland left me with, yet I hold no regrets because the transformation I went through on that journey prepared me for the one that started this season.

Credit: ABC/Craig Sjodin

You may remember me as the doubter but I’d like to introduce you to the believer. And this time it isn’t about whether I can let myself fall in love; it’s about finding that forever love that raises above everything I’ve ever felt.

The magnitude of it all hit me as I packed my bags and said goodbye to my life in Dallas. I knew the next time I came back everything in my life would be different. My sister Constance was midway through her pregnancy with her second child and saying goodbye to her and her growing family reminded of the ultimate goal: creating my own family. To get there I had to step away from practicing law again. I spent much of my adult life focusing on my career and I take pride in my achievements in my field. But hitting the switch and changing from lawyer Rachel to Rachel the Bachelorette was as difficult as it was necessary to find my husband.

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I got my first surprise of the season while I was having send-off drinks with my girlfriends at my favorite bar in Dallas, HG Supply, when former Bachelorette JoJo Fletcher dropped in! She wished me luck and gave me a bit of advice on how to handle the Chads and challenges ahead. JoJo is as sweet and smart as she is beautiful, and knowing how she and Jordan have successfully navigated it all together made her insights priceless.

Pulling up to the mansion to talk to my squad of girlfriends from Nick’s season opened up a floodgate of memories. My first chat with Nick by the fireplace, the bathroom I hid in when my feelings overwhelmed me, the driveway where Corinne inflated her bouncy house. So much has changed in my life since then.

I know it’s tradition for the new Bachelorette to chat with ex-Bachelorettes before the first night starts, but I already had met with JoJo briefly and just because something is tradition doesn’t mean it’s right for me. This time I called on my girls Whitney, Corinne, Alexis, Astrid, Jasmine, Raven and Kristina because they have known me at my best and worst and their advice is intimate.

My friends didn’t hold back on judging the four men I met at After the Final Rose. They were totally Team Eric because he made me dance and brought out the fun loving “Big Rach” side of me that they had all fallen in love with on Nick’s season. They were not so hot on nervous Blake E. or “ready to go black and never go back” Dean, but I know to still kept an open mind considering how nervous I was when I introduced myself to Nick. I got the feeling some of the girls were already picking out who they wanted me to send home so maybe they’d have a chance to date them on the next season of Paradise [*cough* Jasmine *cough*].

Later as the sun set and I slipped into my gown, I felt that weight on my shoulders again. Not just the weight of my very heavily beaded gown but that of opening my heart up again. I know the risks that come with that. But men from all over the country were waiting in limo after limo, putting their lives on hold just for an opportunity and if I didn’t allow myself to fall from the very start, it wasn’t going to work again. I took a deep breath, made a wish, stepped up to the front of the mansion and just let go.

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I was so excited for the limos to pull up it (almost) overcame my nerves. This girl loves surprises, puns, corny jokes and romance. Thankfully my guys’ arrivals hit all of those notes.

When handsome Peter walked up, I took his hands and felt them trembling in mine, and it hit me — these guys are as nervous as I am! Lucas‘ megaphone shtick had me in stitches, though I was concerned he may have concussed himself with the head rattling “Whaaaaboom!”

I realized some the guys had done their homework when Alex danced into my life with a vacuum cleaner like I had in my introduction on Nick’s season. Blake E. totally made up for the awkward moment we shared at After the Final Rose by marching back into my life with an entire band. Thank God I peed before “Ticklemonster” Jonathan’s limo exit because I’m seriously ticklish. I was already recalling the sage advice of my dear friend Alexis, “don’t judge anyone who shows up in a costume” when Matt waddled out of his limo in a penguin costume.

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By the time the last man had entered the mansion, it was clear I had a diverse group of guys which was perfect because I seriously don’t have a type. At that moment I realized one of these guys could be my future husband. Now I had to go inside and find him.

I was more nervous for the cocktail party than the limos because now I had to actually talk to 30 men! Luckily they did most the talking because that first night is more about getting to know them, not just them getting to know me. My greatest fear that night was having to start the rose ceremony and having to make decisions I would regret, so I really wanted to talk to each and every guy.

Josiah’s story about his troubled childhood leading him to becoming a prosecutor and community organizer made me second guess my “no dating lawyers” mantra.

The most shocking moment came when I sat with Frederick, whom I have known since we were in grade school. Although I had a handsome grown man sitting in front of me all I could see is the trouble-making 5-year-old I had put in time-out countless times as a camp counselor. I knew I wanted to give him, and to be honest mostly myself the opportunity to see him as a grown man — but knew it was something that I’d have to work on.

Then there was Bryan. Can we talk about Bryan for a second? I don’t really hablo Espanõl, but his love language certainly spoke to me because before I had time to translate what he was saying he was kissing me … and I liked it. That actually was the hottest first kiss of my life.

Talking to Kenny about his daughter already had me picturing what life would look like outside of this experience. It was so cute to see a big tough pro wrestler turn into a teddy bear when speaking about his family. The “cocktail” portion of the cocktail party definitely became a focus with some guys like Mo who seemed to drown their nerves in booze and forgot to talk to me.

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The end of the night was a whirlwind as the remaining men made valiant efforts to get time with me. Suddenly Chris Harrison dropped the First Impression Rose and I realized it was already decision time. There were a dozen guys I could have given it to for a dozen different reasons, but the truth was I was looking for romance and one guy had made my heart race that night … Bryan. I didn’t expect to kiss anyone this soon, but expectations are made to be broken on journeys like this.

Ugh, the rose ceremony was tough. I struggle with hurting people’s feelings, and I can’t really explain how difficult it was to say goodbye to men who had come so far and shown me so much respect and consideration that evening. As unhappy as I was to see them leave that night, I knew I had to trust my gut and follow my heart. I wish I had a hundred nights to get to know all these men before I had to make my choices but time is precious here. You have to carefully choose who to share it with. At the end of the evening, I had empathy but not regret.

It was a relief to make it through the first evening, and I was more eager than ever to get started dating! I was certainly right to be excited because I have some of the most amazing dates you’ve ever seen coming up.

Next week I get swept off my feet! Unfortunately, I also have the rug completely pulled out from under me. How? You’ll have to tune in to find out!

I’ll just say that one man convinces me this all could work while another makes my worst fears come true. You’ll see me cry, curse someone out and have one of the Most! Dramatic! Cocktail Parties! Ever! … and this is just next week!

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With all of that said, I think the craziest thing to admit is that, as I sit here today watching this journey now unfold … I do so, AN ENGAGED WOMAN. You won’t want to miss a thing.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for following me on this journey. I’m truly humbled to have so much support. Here we go!

Truly yours,

The Bachelorette airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.