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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

In January, one of the most exasperating misfortunes of my life befell on me. I accidentally purchased a pink stuffed axolotl from Build-a-Bear Workshop through Instagram Shopping. 

Your first question is, of course, how does that even happen? How do you unintentionally buy a Build-a-Bear? Allow me to provide some backstory. The previous February, I had purchased a pink stuffed axolotl from Target for my then-boyfriend. That’s what led to me being advertised another axolotl. The algorithm figured that since Valentine’s Day was coming up again, I was probably looking to buy another stuffed animal. This is sound logic, and I wouldn’t have had a problem with it under any other circumstance. Except the previous June, I had linked my debit card to my Instagram account to make a donation.

All of these factors, combined with me distractedly putting my unlocked phone in my pocket, resulted in the disastrous purchase. As I walked down the sidewalk, my thigh brushed the open screen in my pocket, scrolling down and clicking on the fateful Build-a-Bear ad. Barely a minute after the charge had been approved, I took my phone out to discover a notification from my banking app. Over $40 had been mysteriously spent without verifying my face identification or PIN. I was not having a “beary” good day.

I spent the next few hours trying to figure out how to get rid of the thing. I called my bank to report fraud, only to be told it wasn’t technically fraud because I had provided Instagram with my card information. I sent lengthy emails to Build-a-Bear customer service, asking to get the order canceled and my money refunded. They never got back to me, except to say that the $15 shipping was non-refundable. Once the package was delivered, I took it to the nearest Build-a-Bear store, just to be informed they could not take returns from Instagram purchases. The saleswoman advised that I join a Build-a-Bear Facebook group and sell it there. Apparently, my new pink axolotl was in high demand. 

Ignoring any pride I once held, I joined two Facebook groups for Build-a-Bear fanatics. To sign up, I had to fill out a form detailing my passion for Build-a-Bears. I had never felt more disdain for a company in my life, but I managed to earn entry. I posted pictures of the axolotl from the mall parking lot and sat in anticipation of offers. I had been promised lucrative earnings for my suffering! Unfortunately, I was either lied to or the good people of Build a Bear Elite didn’t trust a newbie with no selling experience. Maybe they saw through my false enthusiasm. 

In any case, the plushie sat in a cardboard box in the corner of my bedroom all summer long. It remained there until it was literally auctioned off at one of my sorority’s chapter meetings. Though I didn’t get all my money back, I had finally rid myself of the ever-present nuisance. Since the axolotl has moved into its new home in my sorority sister’s dorm room, I have reflected on my experience with it quite a bit. Admittedly, it has been hard for me to see the good in this whole ordeal, but I have taken a few life lessons from the axolotl.

  1. Sometimes, you have to look through rose-colored glasses. It is often hard for me to take things lightly. As an overthinker, I am either all-in or all-out. When I’m all-in, I can care too much about something and forget to take a step back for some perspective. When this happens, I try to remind myself that not everything is life or death. Especially when the stakes are so low, taking yourself and the problem less seriously can relieve stress and bring humor to an otherwise annoying situation.
  1. Your life can change a lot for the better in a year. When I bought the first axolotl stuffed animal, I was struggling as a freshman in college. I hadn’t found my place yet and was still socially relying on relationships from home. When the second axolotl came into my life a year later, I felt exponentially more comfortable with myself and had made great friendships at school. And now, nine months after that, I am even more sure of this feeling. While my friendships from home are still important to me, I have a strong community and a full schedule at college. Even if you are not thriving at first, it often just takes time to adapt to a new environment.
  1. Good fortune comes in unexpected packages. By the time the semester rolled around, I had given up on getting rid of the axolotl. When move-in came, I left it at home and planned to forget about it until Thanksgiving break. I didn’t think about it until I was prompted to introduce myself at my sorority chapter meeting with a list of my dislikes. The first thing that came to mind was, naturally, the axolotl. I half-joked, half-begged anyone to take it off my hands and it was auctioned off the next week. I fully expected to have to sell it on Facebook Marketplace or donate it to a thrift store, so it was a welcome surprise to be able to get rid of it so easily. 
  1. No matter how hard you try, you can’t control life. And that’s okay. It sounds silly, but I was fairly upset about this mishap when it happened. It was easy for me to tell myself that it was a reflection of my inadequacies. I thought, “How can I not even manage to not accidentally spend money?” The more I contemplated my bad luck, however, the more I realized something exactly the opposite. This chance occurrence, while absolutely avoidable, was also incredibly improbable. It took a combination of random factors that I couldn’t have foreseen. Life is always like that: unpredictable. Most of the time, it’s better to just roll with the punches and accept that life doesn’t always turn out how you expect it to.

In the end, I learned a lot from involuntarily buying the stuffed pink axolotl. Perhaps the greatest lesson I took was to never save your credit card information directly on an app (or at least not on an app owned by Meta). Genuinely, though, I am glad to have been the unlikely owner of this adorable but unlucky Build-a-Bear. Even if the plushie wasn’t worth $40, what it taught me just might be.

Studies neuroscience and Spanish, loves a hot cup of green tea and spends too much time listening to Simon & Garfunkel.