Tay Mosely: Beloved Tutor, Foodie, and Mental Health Advocate

One of Glamour's College Women of the Year, the 46-year-old student says it's never too late.

For more than 60 years, Glamour has honored exceptional college women across the U.S. This year, we turned our focus to students exclusively enrolled in community college. Meet Tay Mosely,  a student, tutor, and blogger who has helped a number of fellow students better themselves. 

At 46, Mosely is a self-reliant survivor who’s managed to clear hurdle after hurdle with an enviable level of determination. Now the Sinclair Community College student is set to graduate this year with her degree in hospitality and event planning. 

Through her blog, Tay’s Bipolar Kitchen Mosely shares her favorite recipes and cooking tips as a way to heal. “What I want people to understand most about my blog is that there are lots of things in life that can help you get through. For me, it was my cooking, and the lesson that I learned is, when my mental health was bad, my cooking declined,” she says.

Mosely’s challenges with her mental health began when she was growing up in Southern California. Her mother was killed five days before she turned one year old, leaving her in the care of her maternal grandmother. To say she had a tough childhood is an understatement. “I was a highly people-pleasing type of child,” she says. “Pleasing people was just one of the things I always tried to do to try to keep myself safe and make sure everybody was happy and liked me.” 

As a kid, Mosely knew she was unlike her peers. When she became an adult, those feelings swelled. She battled with depression, and during her lowest moment, she says, she attempted to take her own life. “After I was in the hospital, they diagnosed me with major depressive disorder,” she says. After spending time in an intensive outpatient program several days a week, she realized something was still off. “I was functional, but I wasn't getting better,” she says. “I finally saw another psychiatrist, who says, ‘You know, I don't think you're major depressive. I think you are bipolar II.’” 

It was like a light switched on, and her days became more manageable. Receiving the correct diagnosis changed Mosely’s life, and through therapy, cooking, and other forms of treatment, the people pleaser also learned the importance of putting herself first and setting boundaries. “You have to pour into yourself before you’re able to produce anything that could be good for anyone else,” she says. “Then once you’re able to do that—once you’re able to build up your self-esteem and self-love and those types of things—setting boundaries becomes easier because you realize it’s worth it. Your peace is the most valuable thing you have.”

Between the odd jobs and her mental health challenges, one major source of joy was cooking. In the fall of 2001, Mosely’s grandmother was battling esophageal cancer. She had just finished chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and the idea of cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a family of 20 was too much. Mosely volunteered, and it was, as she wrote in an essay describing the challenge, a disaster.

The budding chef, who says she’d watched one too many episodes of Emeril on TV, bit off more than she could chew. At 5 a.m she entered the kitchen as confident as her beloved Emeril Lagasse; by noon the mood was more reminiscent of Hell’s Kitchen. She underestimated the amount of prep time needed to cook 18 items from scratch. Despite the culinary struggles, she managed to get dinner served on time and rejoiced at how happy her family was to eat her food. This started a genuine love of food and service. 

Never underestimate the time and effort it takes to discover who you are and what you’re made of. To paraphrase the late great Miles Davis, sometimes it takes a long time to sound like yourself. In Mosley’s case, getting to where she is now—confident and clear about what she wants—took the better part of her 20s, 30s, and well into her 40s, but now she has settled into a lifestyle that suits her. 

“It doesn't matter if you're 20 or 50 or whatever…follow that dream. Maybe you haven't done what you wanted to do up to this point. At least you can go out on a bang and say, ‘I did what I wanted to do. I said what I wanted to say. I saw who I wanted to see.’ You know?”

Cooking isn't Mosely's only talent. Somehow, between planning events, completing homework assignments, and blogging, she’s become a favorite tutor at the Sinclair Writing Lab where she works. What inspires the hospitality student the most—and what prompted a colleague to nominate her for this year’s College Women of the Year—isn’t just her passion to earn a degree. Mosely is also a dedicated writing tutor. “When I was a little girl, I used to say, ‘I'm going to teach English.’” Then, as so often happens, as she got older she shoved that passion aside, instead choosing to focus on one interest. And although she writes for her own blog, she was still shocked when a personal essay she wrote for an English class got the attention of SCC's faculty.

Mosely's culinary prowess is matched by her love of commas and her ability to embolden the people she comes into contact with. In a school survey, one student remarked that he learned more about writing from Mosely's tutoring than he had in a class. "Now I straddle the line where I want to teach hospitality," Mosely says, humbled by the recognition. As a tutor, Mosely has inspired change and helped a number of fellow students better themselves. Ultimately, Mosely wants people, especially hospitality workers, to know their worth.

“I spent a lot of my life people-pleasing, and when that wasn't working…I tried to shrink and become invisible and make as few waves as possible. I want people—especially those in my field—to know they can make waves,” she says. 

Marquita K. Harris is a writer and editor.

This story originally appeared on: Glamour - Author:Condé Nast


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