When he couldn't find work, Chandler's wife suggested he consider returning to school. He decided to base a new goal on his lifelong love for history and mythology.
"I grew up reading about Robin Hood and King Arthur, and as I read more and more different versions of these legends. I began to wonder what, if any, was the true story," Chandler said. "This led to reading mythologies, and I was fascinated by what the myths said about the people who told them."
He also cultivated his passion for history through theater, learning stage fighting and Shakespeare, and through reading books like "Freakonomics" by economist Steven D. Levitt and author Stephen J. Dubner to learn about topics like prohibition and crime.
In Fall 2011, Chandler transferred to UC Merced with his eyes on a career in academia, studying and teaching history.
"I believe in the absolute necessity for everyone to know more about history," he said. "Every current debate in politics today has been debated before in one form or another, and if we understand what has gone before, we can improve our lives, either by learning from mistakes or improving on what was done right."
Chandler had moved to Merced from Nashville to care for his parents. While here, he found the opportunity to attend UC Merced too good to pass up, mainly because the campus is known for offering extraordinary research opportunities to undergraduate students.
His outstanding academic record qualified him for the Regents Scholarship, one of the most prestigious in the UC system. Now his family offers support as he continues his journey.
"Without the support of my wife and parents and brother, I could not possibly survive, let alone succeed," Chandler said.
Chandler's courses at UC Merced include "The Historian's Craft," a rigorous offering designed to prepare students for serious future scholarship.
"The class is loading me up with the tools of the trade," Chandler said. "It's hard on the ego; I make so many mistakes because I have never tried to write as a historian before. But the professor is very helpful, and I hope my skills are improving."
Balance can be challenging, as Chandler devotes significant time to his studies while also doing his part in his family and building a children's music teaching business with his wife. But he finds time to stay connected with theater — a small part in Playhouse Merced's production of "Frost/Nixon," for example. And he's finding the whole experience worthwhile.
"The trite aphorisms are actually true," Chandler said. "It's never too late. It's always worth it to attempt to improve your lot in life.
"It's fun to learn, and as an older student who has experienced more of life, I'm free to really focus on my studies. It's difficult to work in family life but very much worth it."