I have a tattoo on my left calf reading, “It gets better.” So that people walking behind me, who have struggles of their own, can find some hope.
Jake Jones sat across from me in a massive La-Z-Boy, positioned in front of a multicolored canvas painting that popped with nearly every color on the spectrum. In the dimly lit studio of Bob’s Newburgh, rain could be heard tap-tap-tapping against the large window panes that lined its south wall.
Jake appeared both at ease and full of energy as we began our interview for what would become the first of Bob’s Gym’s Tribe Collection — a series of stories about some of the most extraordinary individuals within the Bob’s community.
By the end of our interview, I would come to find that Jake’s story would be tough to top.
At 26 years old, Jake Jones has done more, seen more and experienced more than most do in a lifetime.
He has spent several years of his life as a drummer, touring and playing shows around much of the United States.
He has cycled from Southern Illinois to Denver, Colorado, covering over 1,000 miles in less than a 14 days time — crashing on random stranger’s couches, camping out roadside and even finding sanctuary in a 24-hour gym (no, it wasn’t Bob’s).
He has spent a month backpacking through Europe, setting foot in over 11 countries and 17 cities; canyoning fifty foot waterfalls in Switzerland, and experiencing some of the greatest music on the planet at Barcelona’s Sonar Festival.
But before any of this, he had an experience that few are able to make it out of alive.
“It was Christmas day, 2007. Three of my best friends and I had all finished up with family stuff for the day and decided to visit my buddy’s girlfriend in Mt. Vernon.
We were on our way back, when the accident took place. We were on the Lloyd driving home, when a lifted Silverado ran a stop sign and T-boned us. We were in a small Civic, so it just demolished us.
The front of his truck crashed through the passenger side of our car, breaking my jaw in four places. After the impact, I was unconscious, but eventually woke up. Fortunately, I don’t remember any of it.
I had to have hundreds of stitches. I have two rods in my arm. I fractured my hip, pelvis and femur, causing them to put a rod in my leg as well.
I lost my right eye, as well.
I was in an induced coma for 4 days. Even after being awake for several days, they waited to tell me that I had lost my eye. They were unsure how I would take it.
When they finally told me the news, I just shrugged, “What can you do? What’s done is done.”
Honestly, I was just thankful to not have any brain damage or to have lost both eyes. And for those reasons, I took the whole experience well. I also have to thank all of my family and friends who visited me.
The doctors told me I wouldn’t walk for 2 years and that it would be awhile before I’d play drums again, but, I knew they were wrong. It didn’t take me long to get back on my feet, after some rehab, I was back up within a year.
I am very fortunate. When I look at other people’s situations, such as a refugee, I have it easy. I can’t imagine what some people go through on a daily basis.
When I find myself complaining or feeling down, I remind myself how good I truly have it. Realizing that I have it easy keeps me grounded and humbled.
I have a tattoo on my left calf reading, “It gets better.” So that people walking behind me, who may be having struggles of their own, can gain some hope.
Strangers will approach me from behind and grab my attention, “Hey. Thanks man, I really needed that.”
Jake’s three best friends survived the crash with next to no physical injuries, only one of them needing a rod put in their arm. He said that one of the things he is most thankful for is that it was him and not one of his best friends.
Today, Jake continues to explore the world. He is working a ton of hours right now as he raises funds for his next big trip, planning to take on China.
Jake says he has quite a few interests, but right now film is where his passion seems to be flowing. Eventually, he would like to create a documentary.
When the interview came to a close and we parted ways, I watched as he left the studio, the back of his left calf reading, “It Gets Better”.
Rapid Fire Questions:
What is something you do every day to keep you on your A game?
“Since I work close to 70 hours a week, I don’t get as much time as I would like to workout, but I still try to workout every day for at 20 to 30 minutes — doing most bodyweight stuff, pushups, pullups, etc. I am also Vegan, so I have to pay pretty close attention to my diet.”
What is your greatest strength?
“My work ethic, definitely. I get it from my Dad, he always did whatever he could to provide for his family. He was an incredibly hard worker.”
If you had a billboard at the busiest intersection in the world, what would it say?
“It is the obligation of those who have everything, to help those who have nothing.”
What has been the biggest lesson you have learned while working at Bob’s?
“It’s not a lesson that I’ve learned, per se, but I’m thankful for my opportunity with Bob’s. It has strengthened my work ethic. I did over a year of working the third shift at West and BOY, that was an entirely new experience.”
By Cole Schafer