So, just do the TV-and-pork-rinds thing, right? Nope:
"And I was allergic to real food -- well, not so much allergic, but anything I ate just ran through my system. Everything I ate was so rich I couldn't eat anything other than bread for months without getting painfully sick."
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Apparently that "taste of freedom" everyone talks about is really similar to bleached flour.
Even the stuff about food and air, though, was easy-peasy compared with readjusting to basic human interaction:
"Y'know what else I was allergic to? Human emotion. If you say something in prison, those words are taken to the nth degree. If you say, 'Man, I'll kill you,' there better be blood splatter.
"See, anger and tears and happiness and joy, those are luxuries that you have as a human being that's allowed to interact with other human beings. I didn't know this world for so long that when people in my family and people around me had arguments, I would jump to arms waiting to go to war, or expect them to kill each other. But then two minutes later they're making each other a cup of coffee. And I'm thinking, 'Wow, how can you do that?'"
Eventually you realize that dying over which season of Perfect Strangers is the best is kind of silly.
Still, even with all the physical and emotional misery, finally being declared innocent must have had its perks, right? Financial compensation from the state, a phone call from the governor, maybe a written apology? Nope!
"Pennsylvania offers no compensation. Because I was exonerated, not paroled, I was not eligible for all of the normal assistance even a parolee gets. I had no halfway house, no healthcare, no job search assistance, no cash assistance, nothing. In fact, when I walked out of the gate of the prison, in all the chaos of the press attention one of the guards stole my prison ID and I couldn't even board the commercial airplane to fly home because I had no way to prove my identity."
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"No, I don't have any ID, but if you'd just contact the state Department of Correcti-
Why are you calling security?"
And, obviously, most employers are loathe to hire a former inmate, even if said inmate was wrongfully imprisoned. So Yarris found employment in the only career that society lets pretty much anyone do: motivational speaking.
"In England, over the last nine years, I had the great honor to give over 300 speaking appearances at Cambridge, Oxford, high schools; I spoke before the British Parliament; I spoke to the U.N. General Council standing next to Kofi Annan. The response from children and adults is the same: they're shocked by my story, but more importantly, inspired to live their own lives more fully."
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Also to spring for the best if they ever find themselves in need of a defense attorney.
And while none of us here at Cracked would recommend getting into a drug-fueled fight with a cop or spending the best years of your life learning how to make deadly shit-dart-firing underwear catapults, going through such an experience will teach you a thing or two about life. According to Yarris:
"You can go through worse shit than you ever imagined possible and still choose to be the best version of yourself. People ask me how I'm not angry or bitter, and I ask in reply, 'Why would I want to still be in that horrible prison of hate and bitterness of my own choosing?'"
Nick Yarris now has a beautiful wife, Jesse, and a beautiful life that he's excited to live every single day. His enthusiasm for existence is infectious, even across a blurry Skype connection.
Calix Lewis Reneau is working with Nick writing the feature film version of his story. You can read his secrets to surviving depression in his book Dancing with the Black Dog and his secrets to surviving religion in his book Why I Hate Being a Christian.
Robert Evans has a friend trying to raise money for families affected by the violence in Ukraine.
Luke T. Harrington writes a weekly column for Christ and Pop Culture and blogs over at The Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism. Follow him on Twitter.
For more insider perspectives, check out 5 Things I Learned as a Sex Slave in Modern America. And then check out 21 Terrifying Criminals Who Are Still on the Loose.
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