Bachelor Nation
Clayton Echard wrote a thoughtful Instagram caption following the finale of The Bachelor.

Clayton's First IG After The Finale Is About Being "Tested" And "Lucky"

I'm shocked he had the energy to type all this out after being in the hot seat for two hours.

ABC/Craig Sjodin

Raise your hand if you’re still reeling from the Season 26 Bachelor finale. Is yours up? Mine certainly is. Through every emotional conversation and powerful confrontation, I was wondering what could possibly be going through Clayton Echard’s head. On March 16, he came through with a lengthy Instagram caption reflecting on his experiences with the show.

He began by encouraging fans to “follow your heart” because “it’ll take you exactly where you need to be,” and wrote about the many ups and downs of his ~journey~. “Can’t believe what all has transpired these last six months. There’s so much I have learned and am thankful to have experienced. I made plenty of mistakes, but I have taken the time to self-reflect and grow from each and every one.”

And just FYI, his growth didn’t end with the final rose. “There’s still so much ahead that will challenge me to be a better man,” he wrote. “But as it stands today, I’m happy. Happy because I’ve been tested beyond my limits and am better for it. Happy because I’ve seen and experienced things I never would have, had I not taken this opportunity.”

Of course, he also gave a major shoutout to Susie Evans, who’s now his girlfriend. “But most importantly, happy because I met the most incredible woman that each and every day makes me realize how truly lucky I am to stand by her side.”

He concluded his post with a nod to his fans, writing, “Thank you to everyone who has embarked on this journey with me. It’s been a wild one to say the least.” It sure has!

Viewers didn’t get a chance to see how these two lovebirds found their way back to each other, but they explained how the whole thing went down on two podcasts. On March 15, Evans told The Viall Files, that she slid into Echard’s DMs as soon as her plane touched down from Iceland. “I didn’t DM him with the intention of starting a relationship,” Evans added, “but I was like, ‘Are you OK?’ And, ‘I will respect your boundaries, whatever they are. But if you want to have one more candid conversation, here’s my phone number. Give me a call.’”

The next day, Echard shared his side of the story with the Bachelor Happy Hour podcast. “I was just scrolling through my DMs cause I was actually still traveling back… and all of a sudden, I see her name, and I was like, ‘This has gotta be some fake account trying to catch me, like, they’re trying to already spoil the ending. So I had to click on and had to, like, do some recon and saw that the account was legitimate.”

After he replied to her message, they spoke on the phone for five hours. Soon, they were having marathon conversations every day. “We’d stay on the phone for, like, five hours every night for weeks just talking with no expectation, no ‘what is this?’” she said. Instead, they talked about “what we’re looking for in the future [and] what we’re looking for in a partner.” They became boyfriend and girlfriend “about a month or so” after filming wrapped.

For Echard, all those tests from his season seem to be worth it in the end.