#1 Think Outside the Box
It was surreal to meet 31 men who wanted to possibly marry me. It took me a day to reflect on how special this was, especially as a Black woman. It was a coworker who invited me to audition for the show. Before that I was doing things to please my parents or living the way I felt like people wanted me to. And I literally went on reality TV to find what was missing for me. In the process I’ve learned so much about myself. That’s because I did it outside of the box. I opened myself up and did things that I normally wouldn’t do. I always tend to consider other people. For the first time in a long time, I was selfish and it worked out for me.
#2 Prepare for Love
I dated all throughout my twenties. I had a serious relationship with a guy for about five years. It was off and on until I turned 30. I knew it was over, but I felt invested. That was the first time I was in love, and I thought I was going to marry this person. After that, I started to take a look at myself. I went to counseling and was open about that on the show. I realized I wasn’t ready for marriage. So I got myself in the right headspace. I owned what I wanted for myself, and I wanted to be ready for when that man came to me or when I went to him.
#3 Ditch the List
Before this show, I typically dated African-American men, but if you watch the show, you don’t necessarily see that. I was dating a particular type of man. Once I turned 30, I started to expand my dating pool because I was closing myself off to great men. That’s what you see reflected when I was dating Nick [the previous Bachelor, where she was a contestant], and then on my season. There still were certain deal breakers: I can’t do someone who’s boring or insecure. I needed a man who is self-aware, knows what he wants and wants the same things as me. If you cast the net wider, you never know what you will catch.
#4 Don’t Let Your Job Dictate Your Love Life
My career used to impact my love life a lot: I was a lawyer at work, and then I’d come home with that same mind-set. I was interrogating my significant other, second-guessing everything he said or [dissecting] his argument. It was bad. It took someone calling me out on it to realize what I was doing. In my five-year relationship I started a new job that I liked, and I wasn’t willing to move for the relationship. I promised myself that I wouldn’t sacrifice love for work again.
#5 Let Go to Love
Having Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Ellen DeGeneres and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the show were definitely highlights. But what matters most was that I found love. I started to fall for my fiancé pretty quickly. I was already beginning to develop feelings in the second week. I amazed myself by how I opened up and allowed him to surprise me. For so long I did not let people in and was too afraid to be vulnerable. It felt liberating to just fall and see if someone caught me, and he did. I feel like I’m flying.
This feature originally appeared in the June 2017 Issue of ESSENCE Magazine. Want to hear more from Rachel? Listen to Rachel and her new fiancé, Bryan Abalaso, the winner she chose, talk about their future when they stopped by the ESSENCE Yes, Girl! podcast.