The fact that I'm trying to resist singing 'June is bustin' out all over' to begin this post should tell you how much of last month I spent with a musical theatre society.

I've just finished a week at the New Theatre Oxford treading the boards again after a very, very long time. The thing with things you love - truly, deeply love - is they never really leave you. I thought I'd given up performing around 6 years ago - my aunty, who had been my absolute champion and cheerleader, had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. I had worked professionally on and off and had nothing much to show for it. I was depressed, feeling lost and alone, I wanted more than anything to be happy and to be able to 'move on' - to what, I didn't know. I just wanted to get out of the headspace I was in.

But what I was running from wasn't any place, or circumstance, or badly paid job - it was myself. I was grieving and hurting and lost - more than I ever wanted to admit. I couldn't just make a joke or fake happiness anymore, and as a result I was shutting myself off systematically from the ones I loved. I didn't want to have to admit anything I was feeling to them, so I pushed them far enough away that they wouldn't be able to see me. And I kept up a pretty solid pace of not letting new people into my life, telling myself I had 'enough friends' and 'all I needed'.

2 years back I met a group of people that changed my life, so much for the better. And 5 months ago I made a decision to audition again. The two might seem unrelated, but I know that if it weren't for those people coming into my life and helping me slowly come home to myself, I would never have stepped into that audition room, or come back to that stage. And I guess I'm saying all of this now because more than anything, I want to write about how happy this last week has made me. How full my heart is. How tough it was, keeping a full time job going, keeping my energy up, looking after myself and putting the work in to be a part of this show. The incredible people I met, and the incredible people I have in my life. Most of all, I want to write about how crucial to survival it is to follow your heart. Even when it leads you wrong, and takes you away from yourself for a little while. You'll always find your way home in the end, and you'll come back stronger, different, maybe more able to do what you couldn't before. As we reach the halfway point of this year - my 30th year!!, I am so heartened by everything I have done so far to make myself the happiest I can be. I'm hoping I can keep going this way, and that we're all getting 'there' together.

SEE: I think it'd be hypocritical of me to write such a long piece about coming home to musical theatre and then not recommend something for all of you to enjoy - top of my list at the moment is Mean Girls the Musical (I cannot WAIT for the West End transfer of this!) and Dear Evan Hansen (ditto!).

LISTEN: My whole world changed when I heard This Is America, and it dominated the month of May for me. I'm also really keen on Christina Aguilera's new stuff and Accelerate has me tapping my toes, big time! Hunger is making me want Florence tickets SO bad and James Blake's latest offering is just making me cry (in the best way).

GO: I might've booked a little sneaky getaway for late summer to visit Another.Place in the Lake District and I'm so chuffing excited about the possibility of those views, a relax and a good book and long days of strolling and swimming. Can I go now plz?

EAT: I've got a snack for you this month, because I've recently discovered them thanks to Hannah Gale and nothing has been the same since. These've seen me through many a long rehearsal and work day - so Nakd Blueberry Muffin, this one's for you. Thank you for being so delicious and being one of the few Nakd bars I actually enjoy!

DRINK: I've been on mostly hot lemon and honey teas and water with using my voice so much last month, but with an Ocado shop last month I received a free tester La Vie water and it was pretty damn good! I'll be keeping my eyes open for more flavours.

WEAR: & Other Stories is killing it as per, and this side button pinafore dress is just absolutely killing me. How beautiful would this be for a sunny summer holiday somewhere continental? Brb, daydreaming forever.

READ: I'm on Book Club duty this month, and our assigned book is The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carre, who is one of those authors I've always wanted to read, but never actually have. Has anyone read his work? I'm so intrigued to see what he's all about!

THINK: Recharge. As wonderful as the past month has been, I've spent up a lot of energy trying to work on huge projects in my full time job, juggle freelance work, and rehearse for the show at the end of the month. I was running on empty for a little so I'm going to really enjoy having headspace, free time, and lie ins in June before my big birthday month in July!

When you get a text from halfway across the world letting you know that your girl has picked you up a face mask on half off, it's automatically a good day.

I'll be honest, the Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask was never really that much on my wishlist - it was a periphery product - I'd heard a lot of hype, and was skeptical about whether it could live up to all its claims. Brightening and detoxifying and moisturising? Surely one mask couldn't do all three. And, perhaps to their own detriment, Antipodes weren't exactly a brand aggressively marketing to people like me. I don't think I've ever seen a Facebook or Instagram paid ad by them, whereas compared to brands like Glossier and Origins, their strategy seems almost recessive.

A New Zealand brand, their schtick is 'Scientifically Validated Organic Beauty' - a mealy mouthful and nothing to sniff at. I did really like their all-natural, ethic and authenticity first messaging, so when Jaye let me know they were half off during her time in Aus, I decided this was probably the moment to bite the bullet and give them a try.

And here's the thing - first use of the mask, I was underwhelmed. I liked the texture - kind of creamy, kind of gloopy - like a thick night cream but a little more runny. It's strange to say, but you can really feel the honey in this product. It also smells really great and sinks in to the skin nicely (one of my pet peeves is product that just sits on the skin's surface - ABSORB, DAMMIT!). I sat there, face slightly tingly, looking forward to looking in the mirror and seeing a new face practically.

And... not so much. My skin felt tighter (in a good way) and slightly lifted, perhaps a little better texturally, but I didn't notice much else. I wondered if perhaps I had left it on too short a time, or removed it wrong by using my cleanser, and vowed to give it another go the following night, because when Jaye loves a product, I listen.

So the next night came, I left it on this time around for longer than the suggested 10-20 mins and gave it a full half an hour, post bath. I removed it with warm water as suggested instead of my cleanser, and took a look in the mirror. My pores were reduced, all traces of oiliness had left my skin and yes - there was a glow! The slightly tighter and lifted sensation from yesterday had remained, and my cheeks looked pleasantly plump. It wasn't a new face, but it was me on my best day. My skin felt clean, refreshed and nourished. I was hooked.

I used it once more that weekend and results were much the same, so I'd say take some time to find out how this mask works best on your skin and don't always follow the directions to a T - there's a really cute bit of marketing blurb on the product box about the ritual of applying the face mask daily at sunset - I do not do this but I imagine if I did I would be a very zenned out individual. All in all? If you want clarified, brighter skin, this mask really works, and it feels as natural as Antipodes claim - the ingredients feel good on my skin and I can actually feel my face craving this now! It's nourishing and moisturising but I wouldn't say hydrating, so if your skin errs on the dry side you might want to test this out before you buy - it might not be the level of hydration you're used to/you need.

As for me? It'll definitely be a repurchase and an addition to my regular rotation!

A good skincare routine, I've come to realise, is one of my 'I'm doing OK' markers.

When I'm taking care of my skin, I'm taking care of myself. I feel like I'm adulting, like I've got my stuff together, and I can take on whatever gets thrown at me. It might seem superficial, but for me? How I start and end my day, doing something totally for myself - that's one of the most basic and most accessible forms of self care I have. So I wanted to put together a list of my 'entry level' basics - go tos because they work, tried and tested, and they fit all kinds of budgets.

CLEANSER: The first step, and the thing which made the most difference to my skin straight off the bat. I started cleansing with the Emma Hardie balm, which I appreciate isn't the cheapest! This did totally change the texture of my skin and keep it plump and hydrated, and I'd still recommend it now. However, a great starter cleanser at a more affordable price is the Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish at £15. Liz Earle is an all-natural, cruelty-free brand, and is cult for good reason - and savvy ladies should know that often there are >great deals on their products through Groupon. There's always a good bundle going and the free muslin cloth that comes with their Hot Cloth Cleanser is a great one!

Glossier also offer a great entry-level cleanser in the Milky Jelly Cleanser, which is wonderful for normal to oily skins, however dry-skinned ladies beware, this could cause some patchy dryness for very dehydrated skins. Also if you don't like rose scents, this might not be the one for you.

TONER: I'll be honest - the first toner I had was a super astringent, probably-could've-cleaned-kitchen-sides with it Clearasil one, but I've come to learn that toner doesn't have to feel like it's sucking the life out of your pores. A good exfoliating toner should gently remove the top layer of dead skin on your face, and restore some plumpness and glow to your face. One of my favourites, and the one I'd recommend to anyone starting out, is the Pixi Glow Tonic. It's priced at £18 and my bottle lasted me a whole year! A word to the wise - if you're using this in the AM, *always* make sure to use an SPF after you've finished your full routine.

MOISTURISER: My favourite moisturiser and one of the first few I ever used was the Origins Gin Zing! which plumps my skin and leaves it plenty hydrated without it ever feeling greasy. It also sinks in super quickly and absorbs like a dream, leaving my skin primed and ready for make up. If you're looking for a slightly cheaper option, the Boots Botanics Day Cream is a really nice, simple formula, which gives glow and definitely gently hydrates the skin, although it is a creamier texture so takes a little while longer to sink in.

And those are the back bones of a good routine! However, if you're feeling a little #treatyoself, here are some optional add-ons I would say have really helped my skin out...

EYE CREAM: A good eye cream isn't so much a concern for most in their early 20s, but as 80s and early 90s kids like myself get ever closer to the big 3-0... it's all about hydrating, plumping, and gently tending to that delicate skin! Eyebags are not a cute look and I suffer with allergies, so I like to use quite a rich and cooling treatment that really treats the skin under my eyes that is often so dry and irritated. That's why the Kiehl's Avocado Eye Treatment gets a big thumbs-up from me, and has been my go-to for about 3 years now!

SERUM: This is usually a step I reserve for my night-time routine, when I have a little more time to spend on getting my skin prepped for bed. It's kind of like a booster for your moisturiser! I really love the Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate, but for a cheaper option, I've heard great things about Glossier's Bounce Serum.

A GOOD HYDRATING MASK: I absolutely love a good hydrating masks - I use them on flights, before I get in the bath, and sometimes even in place of moisturiser in the evenings, to sleep in! There's nothing like giving your skin a big dose of food, and that is how I think of these bad boys. I'm all about Origins Drink-Up Intensive and always will be, but another great option is Glossier's Moon Mask, or try out Liz Earle's Intensive Nourishing Treatment Mask.

*This post contains a paid-for affiliate link.

In the 12 months I've had my job as brand manager for a global publishing company, I've learnt a hell of a lot.

In the 2 months I've had a mentor at one of the biggest branding consultancies in the world, I've learnt a hell of a lot more.

You might've heard a lot about the importance of mentors in your career, but often with the attached mystery of Yoda-esque inherent wisdom. Everyone needs a mentor! You won't progress without one! But how to go about getting one? How do you even know where to start? Should they be in your field, or from a different discipline? There's a whole lot that can fall under that umbrella term of a 'mentor'. I like to think of it like this - whether formalised relationships or not, after a certain period of working people will emerge who you turn to regularly for advice and who help to shape your approach to the work that you do. That can be the beginning of forming a mentoring relationship - it's that simple.

From experience, I can say it's good to formally ask and set up some kind of framework - how often you'll meet, and whether you'd like to bring issues or questions to them to discuss, or whether you'll just have a more general 'check in'. Think about what you want to get from the relationship - is it specific advice on how to progress in your field? Or more general career guidance - a lot of women at the beginning of their careers find it particularly useful to speak to a woman in leadership in any discipline, if that's a particular aspiration, for example. No one form of relationship is more useful than the other. And no one mentorship should be for life - it's most useful to set short term goals, and check in at regular intervals to make sure you're both still getting a lot out of talking to one another.

So why do these relationships matter? Here are some of the tangible benefits I've felt since working with a mentor...

1. A CHANGE OF PERSPECTIVE: Reporting into your manager is a very specific type of relationship, based on task assignment and completion, and a shared view of what you're both working towards. Your mentor doesn't have the same amount riding on what you do, so will be able to give you some much-needed perspective on your work and your processes. I've found that when I talk things through during a mentoring session, we'll frequently 'trim the fat' around what I've been doing, and purely him coming at my work from a different angle and a different perspective forces me to get to the heart of what I mean much more quickly.

2. CHOICE: It might sound strange, but watching someone work, when you're not trying to get something done yourself - it's pretty fascinating. You'll find as you go through your career that you curate a lot of different viewpoints and tastes and perspectives as you go, which helps form your approach and your opinions in what you do. It's perfectly normal to be influenced in this way. Having a mentor, particularly if you have one in a different discipline to your own, gives you more exposure to different ways of working, of approaching problem solving, and strategic thinking. Just like the more you read can help broaden your vocabulary and make you a better writer, the more you work with different types of people, the more you can bring to the table when working on your next project.

3. RECOMMENDATIONS: Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and we've never seen that so prominently as in this age of social and digital. I'd say wait until you have a more familiar relationship with your mentor before you go adding them on LinkedIn, but these connections are powerful ones that will probably stay with you throughout your career - even if only in the form of a quick written endorsement.

4. TIME AWAY FROM YOUR DESK: I'm so grateful to have a scheme at work that allows me to see a mentor offsite, away from where I work every day. I'd suggest if you can, even if your mentor works in the same company as you, suggest going for coffee in the 'outside world'. The time away from the four walls you're usually in during work-time can do amazing things for your creativity and inspiration. If you have a commute to your mentor - even better. Use your train or bus ride to and from to do some reflecting and thinking time, and really process what you want to get out of your session, and what your key takeaways are, respectively.

5. THE HONEST TRUTH: A mentor will not be invested in whether you stay in the role you're currently in or not. They shouldn't be tied in any way to your successes or choices in what you do. And therefore, they'll be able to advise you objectively and help you to plan and make moves for you - based on what is both realistic and the right amount of ambitious. It shouldn't happen (but does, frequently) that your manager would stifle your growth or progress to keep you around and avoid the upheaval of rehiring. A mentor is a great sounding board for when you feel like it might be time to move on, move up, ask for more money, or renegotiate your job spec, and can give you solid, practical advice from experience on how to do this. 

By the time May comes around every year, I’m usually willing on the summer months, hoping for heatwaves and planning out my bank holiday activities - I can’t get enough. I don’t know if it was the winter that wouldn’t end, or if it’s simply how much I’ve got on right now, but I’m finding myself thinking ‘SLOW DOWN, I’M NOT READY!!!’ More and more often. 
Which is apt really, because more often than not, while I’m thinking about how much I’m not ready, I’m out here coping. Sometimes even doing really well. I’m doing things that would’ve terrified me a year ago, I’m managing to keep myself and those I love happy. There are tiny and quite massive, whale-sized wins happening all over the place. 

So until I learn to slow time or my thoughts, I’m going to have to just make do with letting go and trusting more. We’ve all got this and we can all find a way through the stress and pace and responsibilities, somehow. And for the times we can’t - it’s ALMOST warm enough for ice cream again.

SEE: I am so incredibly late to the party, but The Sopranos has been taking up every evening of my life pretty much since Easter weekend. What an incredible show! I’m also really into the short but sweet new series of Travel Man (Richard Ayoade makes me giggle like no other) and I am GAGGING at the new season of Drag Race. Last Sunday I was coming up empty and Netflix provided in the form of The First Monday in May - what a great documentary. It made me think back to going to see Savage Beauty at the V&A, and everything I loved about The Met, and working in magazines. Lots of inspiration to be had here.

LISTEN: APRIL HAS BEEN MAJOR FOR NEW RELEASES. So Dirty Computer came out and is phenomenal, as did my very own Anne Marie’s Speak Your Mind, which you should obviously all go get. Ari is back with a solid banger in the form of 'No Tears Left to Cry' and Tove Styrke has released some real earworms that I can’t get rid of. Lykke Li released deep end and hard rain which have me so excited for 'so sad, so sexy'.  There’s so much exciting shit happening in music right now!

GO: remember those two blissful days of heat we got? Well, the Boyf and I spent one of them on a little Cotswolds tour and damn, Chipping Norton is beautiful, isn’t it? I haven’t made enough time to Cotswolds explore but I’m hoping to rectify that this month between the two bank holidays. Coffee and cake at a little eatery or a drink in a pub is calling my name in the not too distant future...

EAT: April was a great food and drink month. I started it in Brighton, and Mum and I were lucky enough to spend some time pottering about there and enjoying all the fun sights. One stop we made was in La Cave au Fromage, where we picked up deli sandwiches to take back to our hotel room for a feast and MAN ALIVE were they good! I had a soft cream cheese and salami sub that legit changed my perspective on a lot of things.

DRINK: A friend at work went on a little gin tasting evening and mentioned that Sipsmith do a Lemon Drizzle gin - hello, ideal. Consider me sold.

WEAR: My mindset is well and truly focused on warmer weather days now, as well as some summer events that’ll require a few occasionwear bits. This maxi dress from Reiss has really caught my eye, as well as this beauty from Ganni.

READ: I’m longing to have enough time to sit down and start some new fiction - something along the lines of Little Fires Everywhere, which I've wanted to read for aaaages now!

THINK: Cyclical. I want to welcome good things in to my life, my body, my day to day, so that I can get good things out. There’s a lot of big things happening at work and personally for me this month, so it’ll be interesting to see what comes out of needing to give 110% to those demanding actions. 

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