Tracey Emin: My Life In A Column

'Everybody you have ever known, in every way possible, they are still there in your head, somewhere'
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The Independent Online

Today, the pressure was off. But now it's back on again. I never seem to have enough time, and I really feel that this is what affects my happiness: pleasure and time.

I can hear some people across the way making some kind of light conversation and occasionally an oooh-ahhh noise. I'm guessing they are watching the tennis. I went to Wimbledon once. I was 13 and it was some kind of special school treat. I was good at running, but never good at tennis. I had massive problems in concentrating on the ball. Nevertheless, somehow I had wangled a place on this extremely glamorous school trip. One minute you are doing cross-country through the cabbage fields, the next it's strawberries and cream on court No 1.

I remember it clearly, we didn't have to wear our school uniform, but we were told that we had to wear a skirt. I wore a floral pleated skirt that was quite see-through, a collarless granddad shirt, a man's pinstripe waistcoat that I had altered to fit me quite tightly, some ankle socks and a pair of plastic jelly sandals. I thought I looked so cool. There was only one downer for me, the night before, during trampoline class, whilst attempting a backward somersault, I had managed to ram my knee right into my top lip, so along with the 1950s punky shades, I also had a very nice 1970s fat lip!

It was such a hot day. I remember sitting on the grass and dabbing ice cubes on my lip. These are my fondest memories of tennis. I now occasionally get invited by some fantastic corporate entity to be one of their guests on Centre Court – and I always have a "plus-one". I have friends who are tennis mad, but I never go, and so I can never give away my "plus-one", because it's me plus one. The "plus-one" is a funny thing. I often wish it was "plus-two", then the plus two could go and I wouldn't have to.

It's strange, the memories and experiences from when we were young and how much they affect us. I really felt that day at Wimbledon (with my fat lip and jelly sandals) that I was going somewhere. And I was so grateful to the swollen lip because I had an excuse not to have to watch the tennis.

I roamed around, looking at other spectators, what they were wearing and how they carried themselves, and my obvious observation was that, like myself, there were a lot of people who weren't there for the tennis. If they were, they would have been watching it. I have always been sitting around pondering and thinking, but I think when I was young my main objective was to meet people.

I felt there was something exciting and glamorous about meeting somebody from somewhere else, not in a calculating way, but in the truest way. I think about that innocence and that liveliness and how free and easy everything felt – I had penpals stretching from John O'Groats to Land's End.

Now, as I sit here at the grand old age of nearly 45, the whole notion of meeting new people and taking on new friendships is completely daunting. How do we find room in our heads for everybody and everything? How do we have the strength to take everybody with us? I mean that as a human collect-ive, I mean it in terms of the biggest ideas. Everybody you have ever known, in every way possible, they are still there, in your head, somewhere.

The artist Douglas Gordon made a work about this. You can see it on the stairwell of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. It's a very simple work, listing the names of everybody he has ever met. In some ways, not so dissimilar from me listing the names of everybody I have ever slept with. Except Douglas Gordon's is very cool and conceptual, whereas mine was very passionate and expressive and ratty looking. But nevertheless, both works are like a cleaver in the brain with the ability to push the memory and the thinking patterns much further than usual.

If you don't believe me, get a pen and paper now and write your own list. Everybody you can remember meeting, without exclusion. It's like cleaning out an old cupboard that you haven't looked in for years. Some people you will ponder on, evoking memories from the past in quite graphic detail. Other names will fill you with pride and emotion. And some will just be a callous whisper of the pen. What appears to be on the surface very, very simple, once it nears completion, is an obvious mental journey to extreme places.

I went on a bit of a journey today. For at least half an hour my mind went into an upset, jealous rage, full of imaginary graphic detail. My whole thinking process resembled an insane ball of dental floss. How I calmed myself down was to sit and write a list of all the people that I've never met, that I never wanted to. I'm only joking, but the idea did put a smile on my face. It also made me realise that I don't actually have any hatred or animosity towards anybody (except Robert Mugabe, who's a fantastic example for my list).

As a 13-year-old girl, sitting on the grass at Wimbledon, at least I was hungry enough to know there was a whole world out there – beyond tennis. Love All.

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