Never in my life have I been so sore, exhausted and delirious with happiness as I was during this summer’s 43rd Annual Comic-Con International.

Comic-Con takes place over four days every July at the San Diego Convention Center. While the title suggests a niche crowd of comic book fans, it has expanded its showcase well beyond the graphic novel since its inception in 1970.

The convention still boasts an astounding number of comic-themed exhibitions, but it has grown to also include displays and panels by video game companies, film studios and popular television networks. In fact, the events at Comic-Con that draw the biggest crowds seem to have no relation to comic books whatsoever, though the television shows and films that come to the con tend to be those with an action or science fiction focus that attract a loyal following.

This was my third time attending Comic-Con in my hometown of San Diego. The convention may have been easily accessible in terms of proximity, but no other part was simple. Due to the con’s explosion in popularity, even purchasing tickets is a daunting task, with Comic-Con’s servers frequently crashing while people buy passes. This year, tickets sold out in just 90 minutes, and over 130,000 fans attended.

The convention center, filled with devotees dressed in imaginative costumes of their favorite characters, seemed more densely packed than ever this year. Trying to move around the massive exhibition hall was almost impossible because of the crowds. People waited for hours for TV show cast signings at the network booths and a line stretched all around the giant hall just to buy Comic-Con t-shirts. Trying to attend the con’s famous panels with the stars and creative teams of popular films and television shows was just as difficult. A six hour wait wasn’t unusual for Ballroom 20 or Hall H, two of the convention’s biggest rooms, where discussions and sneak peaks of “Doctor Who,” “The Walking Dead,” “True Blood,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “The Vampire Diaries” continually drew the largest crowds.

Though I spent more time in line than watching programming, I am still so grateful that I was able to attend the iconic convention again. Personally, I enjoyed the preview night best, which takes place on the Wednesday before the actual Comic-Con panels begin. This year, I snagged a front-row seat in the half-full Ballroom 20, where two huge screens played the first episodes of this season’s upcoming shows. I was pleasantly surprised by the Warner Bros. Television sponsored pilots, which included ABC’s “666 Park Avenue,” The CW’s “Arrow and Cult,” FOX’s “The Following” and NBC’s “Revolution.”

The rest of the convention wasn’t nearly as relaxing, but was just as entertaining. On Friday, after waiting in line for six hours starting at 7 a.m., I finally made it into Ballroom 20 to catch the cast of “Bones,” see Joss Whedon talk to the audience about upcoming projects and hear stars like Lucy Lawless and Anna Torv speak about being women in the television industry.

On Saturday, I chose a smaller ballroom, waited only an hour in line, and stayed for ten hours of programming. I was lucky enough to see the cast of the upcoming “The Following” and CBS’s “Person of Interest,” as well as a cartoonist “quick draw” panel and discussions with top voice actors in the business.

Though I left the San Diego Convention tired and a little annoyed at the human rat race that was each day of that July weekend, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. Maybe Comic-Con has become too mainstream, over-commercialized, crowded and expensive over the years, but it will always be a magical place where entertainment nerds like me can just be themselves. I can’t wait to return.