One of the things that I’ve made it a point to do is use my time constructively. Once I got used to my surroundings at my first prison, I started taking active steps to do everything I could to help better myself. I had done time before, but not under these circumstances. I was already used to being closed off, so that was already my norm and has been essential to the way I’ve lived. I choose to live my life with a positive perception and if I allowed myself to think about all the things that I’m going to miss out on it would serve me no purpose. Instead of dwelling on the negative I chose to focus on and work towards the positive. I was still on my direct appeal, so I had an attorney at the time working on my case, as ineffective as he was, so I wasn’t focused on getting myself out at the time. I’ve always been strong minded and strong willed, so I had to learn to adapt that to all the aspects of being in here for this long. I started reading books like “Mind is the Master” by James Allen and “The Prosperity Bible” by various authors.

One of the harder things I was dealing with was the lack of support from out in the world. When I caught this case for the most part everyone fell off. There are still times when it bothers me. But at the same time, I have to thank all those people because they’ve not only helped me to be more independent, but they’ve helped strengthen my resolve. I can be perfectly fine by myself and I know I can be successful in whatever I put my mind to. So, once I had the strong mentality, it was time to work on other aspects of my life.

Besides working on my mentality, I took all the classes that they offered, Custodial Maintenance, Technology, Job Seeking Skills, and Financial Survival skills. I’m also certified through American Red Cross in Bloodborne Pathogen training. I got a job in the kitchen and ended up being a cook, so I got out of my cell for 8 hours a day, got to eat good, and make the $50 I’m allowed in my account from the state. Whenever I had outside yard I would workout. I was also running a store and fixing electronics for a side hustle so that way I could use the money in my account to order things that would help me feel a little more normal and uphold my image of self-respect (see my “Restitution” post for specifics of what’s available).

For a while there I was content with the small mindedness the little world I was living in here. Once I started thinking bigger there were 2 things that I really started focusing on: physical fitness and the stock market.

Both of these subjects stuck out to me for a few different reasons. I lifted weights during my first prison sentence, and I enjoyed it, the way it made me look, the way it made me feel, and the physical capabilities it gave me. When I got locked back it up it turned into something more though, it turned into a lifestyle for me. I should note that getting locked up with this much time gave me a more bigger picture look at my life, so I started planning with that perception. So, with that in mind now I needed to also maintain my health long terms so that when I do get out, I can be in shape and live a long, healthy, successful, and fulfilling life. With anything that it’s important to me I like to learn as much as I can about it so I can understand it the best I can. I studied anatomy, physiology, nutrition, and different lifting styles. Being in level 4 I didn’t have a weight pit, so I was stuck with calisthenics. Working out also helped me a lot mentally. It helps keep me levelheaded and keep things in perspective. It’s a positive way that I can keep my mind and body in shape.

When I was in high school, I took an economics class and we did a project where we had $10,000 to start with to invest in the market. I think the project lasted 3 months and by the end I was at over $200,000. Like I said, once I got what I wanted to in here I started thinking bigger picture and planning for the future. By happenstance someone that I sat next to in English class in high school for a few months ended up reaching out after not having talked to me for about 8 years and it just so happened that he actually invests for a living. We started corresponding and as I was getting into investing, he was getting more into working out. I started giving him info about working out and he was giving me info about the stock market and even sent me a couple books on it. I started doing transfers and saving the money out in the world to start investing in the market and to this day that’s what I do. Because I’m not working with tens of thousands of dollars, I’ve got more of a day trader mentality and not a long-term investor mind set. I look more for a quick flip to get my profit so I can re-invest. I don’t however dump stocks just because they’ve gone up if I think there’s still potential for a significant increase in the short term.

Physical fitness and the stock market are both unique because I enjoy them, they’re both positive, they’re both beneficial, they’re both things I can do long term and prepare for my future physically, mentally, and financially. But I think what’s most appealing to me is that they’re both things that I can actually apply what I learn from in here. It’s hard to find something that encompasses all those things that you can make relevant to achieving something from in here.

A couple other things I should mention about each, I like that physical fitness is something that’s constant in my life so it’s reliable and I like the exact opposite about the stocks, it’s always changing and there are so many factors that can affect the market.

Dakota Turn

Source of feature image: Mother Jones; champc/Getty

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