And yet, despite my career and friendships, I knew something was missing: love.
Since graduating college, dating had felt like a second job, and not a particularly enjoyable one at that. A lot of guys I encountered on Hinge, Bumble and other dating apps seemed to just want to date "casually."
I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. Studies show that marriage isn't the same priority
for millennials as it was for our parents and grandparents. We are focused on our careers, and we are comfortable being single.
Except, while I loved my career and respected those who wanted to be single, I also wanted a long-term relationship -- a soulmate, just like my parents had found in each other 30 years ago.
If I wanted a relationship with long-term potential, though, I had to take a different route -- and possibly one that carried a fee. A co-worker urged me to try a paid dating site. "See what happens," she said.
The idea of paying $102.32 -- the cost of a subscription for two months at the time -- felt strange to me. My older sister fell in love with her husband in college. My parents met in high school. Going on a paid dating site felt foreign in comparison to the more organic examples of love around me.
But eventually I got past my inhibitions, and in the summer of 2016, my sister helped pick profile photos to showcase on my new dating profile. I drafted a short bio that described my love for work, travel, family and friends. And as messages started coming in, I carefully weeded through potential bachelors in my area.
It was a little overwhelming, but a considerable upgrade from the men I had encountered on the free dating apps. These guys appeared to want something different -- something serious. The paid dating site encourages members to complete in-depth surveys about themselves and what they want in significant others. Seeing men who had taken the time to fill out the detailed questionnaires made me realize how many men out there -- millennials included -- might also be looking for companionship.
One week after setting up my profile, it was time for my first subscription-based date. I'd connected with a guy named Pete from Hoboken, New Jersey. My sister wasn't sure he was my type, but we shared a lot of the same interests, including our jobs and love of travel.
On the big day, I did not feel up to the date. I still wanted to meet "the one" the old-fashioned way, at a college football game or through friends of friends. That night I tried to cancel, texting Pete that I'd just gotten home from a work trip and that I was too tired. He offered to meet me closer to my apartment so that I didn't have to travel far, and something inside me said, "just go."
Our first date was refreshing. He was on time, opened doors and seemed genuinely curious about my life. We talked for hours about the places we wanted to travel -- Italy being at the top of our lists.
We also talked about his profile picture, which featured two women -- one on each of his arms. I assumed they were his mom and sister. I was correct -- and his sister, in fact, was his twin. The picture and his response to it was a sign of how much he cared about the women in his life.
And while it took a while for us to let our guards down, this time I felt like I'd met someone who wanted to find a long-term relationship.
Over the next year, Pete and I grew to know and love each other even more. And on June 13, 2017, he proposed to me on a beautiful property outside Rome. We married six months later in New York.
People are often surprised to hear that I met Pete on a paid dating site -- and at such a young age. For whatever reason, paying to meet someone as a millennial often comes with a certain stigma. But I can tell you now that it was the best $102.32 I've ever spent.
Seeking love and lifelong companionship is not always a personal necessity. I know many people -- young, middle-aged and old -- who are happily single. But if you want to find love and the right person isn't knocking on your door, there's no shame in paying to find it, even at 24.