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I heard my upstairs neighbor for a year before I met him. Walking around above me, playing music, watching How I Met Your Mother and Parks & Rec. Besides some concern for how thin the walls separating us were, I was amused by the thought that because he watches two of my favorite shows all the time, we would probably be BFFs. I admit—I wondered about him at times, this mysterious, Netflix-loving neighbor of mine. But I never in a million years thought I would wind up dating him.

Until I signed up for Bumble.

Yes, after a self-imposed two-year hiatus from dating, a few months ago I decided it was time to “get back out there,” as they say. I had heard great things about the dating app Bumble from a few different friends, so I decided to give it a try. After a few first dates that didn’t go anywhere, a guy popped into my match queue listed as 0.4 miles away (Bumble is a location-based app). “Wow!” I thought. “This guy is practically in my backyard!”

Little did I know that this guy was literally in my backyard.

He knew who I was; I had no clue who he was. Apparently we had said hi in the parking lot a few times over the course of the past year, but I had no recollection of it. Somehow I had managed to not notice the cute guy right under my nose.

We hit it off instantly. Within a week we were hanging out every other day or so. We took walks, watched movies, and played Scrabble. It was one of the easiest, most seamless dating situations I had ever entered into. We had so much fun. Great chemistry. A very similar sense of humor. He was a little bit of a nerd, and I loved that because so am I.

One of our nerdier pursuits he turned me on to was geocaching—basically hunting for a hidden token that you can find with your phone’s GPS. The cool thing about geocaching is that caches are hidden in the most ordinary places: hanging from a tree in a parking lot, on the side of a stop sign, and behind books on a library shelf. They’re so subtly hidden in plain sight that it can be easy to overlook the very thing you’re looking for. Much like my upstairs neighbor.

Despite all our checked boxes of compatibility, after about a month of seeing one another, things fizzled out. The reasons are complicated; the resolution is simple: He wasn’t meant to be my great love. He was meant to prepare me for it.

My almost-relationship helped me see what I had been missing by shutting myself off from the risk of intimacy with someone new. This one-month relationship even made me brave enough to reach out to the ex who shattered my heart two years ago . . . and he apologized for hurting me. Profusely. I felt the healing and closure that I didn’t even realize I needed.

We miss so much beauty, so much meaning, so much life, so much love . . . by being too busy. Too rushed. Too worried about wasting our time on relationships and dating apps that likely won’t work out. But truly putting yourself out there means allowing for the possibility that one date won’t lead to happily ever after. It also means being open to the possibility that even the failed relationships are a step forward.

Just like with geocaching, the things we need the most are often found in the obvious places but also the quiet places and the subtle places and the places we never even thought to look.

Like a dating app or our own backyard.

Today I urge you to stop and take a look around you. Allow yourself not just to look but to really put yourself out there. You might be surprised to find some unexpected faces in some unexpected places. And hey, if all else fails, you can always try introducing yourself to your neighbor.

Photo Credit: Erynn Christine Photography