Credit: Justin Stephens/The CW

My obsession with The Vampire Diaries began predictably enough: I was in the tenth grade, perma-pining after boys, and looking for an escape from my incredibly type-A life. Looking back, I can see how I fell under its spell; the show follows Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) as she navigates a love triangle between two vampire brothers (Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley). It had all the drama my life lacked—plus the supernatural intrigue of two hot guys who are also vampires. I was hooked.

While Elena's backstory was no doubt tragic—her parents died in a car accident—she was still living the high school dream, complete with incredibly hot friends, bonfire parties, and seemingly no need to ever do homework. Also, two hunky brothers (one of whom was played by Ian Somerhalder) were mortally obsessed with her. It was the sexy family-tree-love-triangle I never knew I needed.

The Vampire Diaries felt revolutionary because (in the beginning, at least) the whole vampire thing took a back seat to the show's epic love triangle. Sure, Elena’s boyfriend was a bloodsucker and her best friend was a witch but, honestly, this show could have passed for a less sports-heavy Friday Night Lights. The characters went to high school, cheered on football games, and navigated the tricky world of teenage romance. Sure, they attempted to live off of animal blood (sound familiar, Twilight fans?) but they still lived some semblance of normal lives. (Then Damon killed Vicky and all of a sudden, shit got very real.)

Before we go any further, I feel obligated to state the obvious: This is not an award-winning show, and I won't attempt to defend its plot, nor its acting. It’s campy, many story lines feel overdone, and honestly it probably should have ended a few seasons ago. I've surprised countless friends and co-workers by casually revealing that I still watch TVD, which is so obviously meant for preteen girls. But after eight years and 170 episodes, I feel no shame for watching, and loving, everylast one.

However, TVD and I had our ups and downs. Sometime in between Elena “dying” for the umpteenth time and the literal devil being introduced as a character, I thought I was ready for the end to come. But as we approach the very last episode, airing tonight (!), I am struck by how much this show has meant to me—and the huge, hot vampire-shaped hole it will leave in my heart after it's gone.

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But even more than missing Ian Somerhalder’s devilishly handsome smile, I will miss the show because, throughout the past eight seasons, The Vampire Diaries taught me a surprising lesson in optimism. Sure, everything seems terrible and everyone might be dead, but in 40 short minutes, the episode will wrap with an unrealistically happy ending and a relieved hug.

After so many heartbreaks and homecomings, I've learned to hold my breath when it seems like the worst is coming—because it probably isn't as bad as you think. As a perpetual worrywart, the show's constant 180 spins have helped me to find the light when it feels like all is lost.

So while I definitely cannot defend the quality of the CW classic, I can defend its uplifting storylines: The Vampire Diaries isn’t about vampires or werewolves, witches or demons, it’s about finding hope when everything is literally going to hell. And who can hate on that?

Watch the series finale of The Vampire Diaries on Friday, March 11 at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.