Chime on the reliability! That's really what at-risk kids need: an adult role model who has it together and will show up for them. Just modeling what a put-together person looks like can be eye-opening for some kids. I think of a friend of my sister's who lived with us for a little while. When she came over to my father's place for dinner, she was amazed that we had a good relationship with our stepmother, since (from her own experience) she didn't know that was possible. We had no idea.
How are these fields characterized? I've heard that the biological sciences in particular are quite cutthroat, which can be draining for the people who are in it for the science and are not naturally competitive people. (This is hearsay, obviously.)
Well, what exactly is the field and/or prompting question? Is the application specifically asking if you are "diverse"? Do you have a separate personal statement and SOP, or is it one document? If a separate personal statement is not required, then you probably need to stick to your past work and proposed research in the SOP.
Many people suggest keeping one's SOP focused upon intellectual passions rather than personal background, except in rare cases. This is not because there aren't valid personal reasons for choosing a course of study (for example, if a person you loved died of X disease and now you want to study it) but because grad schools are trying to gauge intellectual ability, engagement, creativity, etc. The SOP's role in the application process (aside from demonstrating your experience and areas of interest) is to show that you can come up with interesting research proposals.
People from your field can give you better advice, however, as the extent to which sharing one's personal experience is acceptable varies by field. I imagine that both your upbringing and past work as a suicide counselor (?) would be helpful to add for certain public policy or social work programs. However, I am speculating.
I've had pretty much the best first batch of students I could imagine. They're engaged in class, they've got interesting things to say, they are earnest, they have good rapport with each other, and they forgive my mistakes. Best of all, every single student I talked to about a bad second paper came to me asking how to improve rather than demanding a better grade. I feel really lucky.
They all (or even mostly) aren't brilliant writers yet, of course, but on a personal level they made my first term teaching very enjoyable.
I like what eco_env suggested about the subject line: it would make me read a recruitment email if I could quickly look over it and determine basic fit. (Obviously the email should also include a sentence or two about the available prof's research.) I remember getting recruitment emails which mentioned money in the subject line, and those always seemed desperate to me, so don't lead with that. I would be happy to read about a program's funding in the text of the email itself, though.
About the University of Puget Sound: gah, is that their recruitment tagline now? That's cheesy and awful! (I'm allowed to say that because it's my alma mater.) At least it gives a nod to the fact that no one outside the Pacific Northwest knows what the Puget Sound actually is.
So...which is it? Are we on GradCafe a clique, or do we not like getting our buttons pushed? That's the thing, though - this comment shows that you realize some of your statements are designed to get a rise out of people, and then you are surprised when people get annoyed.
Yes, while this is a terrible story (if true - and honestly, I'd expect to hear about something like this in some toxic business workplaces, so why not academia?) it is by no means typical. As one professor once wisely told me, "You get some buttheads in any group of people." Academia is unique in that we can expect to spend many years or even decades with our colleagues. Even people we normally like can get tiresome after all that time. But that's one of the things worth enduring, in my opinion.
Oh! So every program you apply to has majority non-white, non-male faculty and graduate students, and all the conferences are overwhelmingly dominated by the same, right? I mean actually over 50% of the academics, not just a casual "oh I know more than a handful so the field must be overrun" kind of accounting.
Honestly, what kind of a critique is this? I realize you had a disclaimer that you didn't think before posting this rant but it's interesting what you came up with in a moment of pure purge.
This is actually more to the point of your problem.
Don't be so hard on yourself. You were in one of your first relationships (perhaps the first?) and it turned out that you were really compatible. But thinking about living together for the rest of your lives is a big, big step, especially when you haven't dated other people yet. I think it was totally reasonable to wonder if perhaps you are more suited to someone else, or for you to just be curious about being with someone else. And people grow and change; though you have since concluded that you still want to be with her, it was not a bad idea to take a step back and consider if you still match each other enough to stay together.
These are difficult issues, and I wish you the best of luck in figuring it out. If you end up getting back together - great! If not, don't feel that you are a failure or a bad person for ending the relationship. You are not - you are grieving. Though most breakups are portrayed as ugly, rancorous messes, in reality people who still love each other must sometimes part, and it is hard and no one's fault.
Chime on the language preparation. If you are doing Middle East history, you should know that field puts huge stress on language, perhaps equal or greater than the emphasis put on language for medievalists. And the sooner you can work with primary sources, the better.
And (arguably) the most important part of your application will be the writing sample. If you want to spend extra time on something after you've spent all your money on language classes, polish that.
Though it may not seem like it, time goes by pretty fast. It may be too soon for you to have a "let's commit for the rest of our lives" conversation, it sounds like it's just about time for you to check in and see what you are willing to give up for each other. If you are going to be together in the long term, it really isn't that big a deal to give her a year, or two, or five right now. However, by doing so she should also promise to support you when it comes time for you to go to grad school. Depending upon how mobile her career is and what her own personal goals are, this may be a fundamental problem for you as a couple and you really should know about it right now.
You may also make trade-offs which will inhibit your career later. For example, she'll put off starting that small business and you'll be the primary caretaker for any future children; or she'll move with you now but you will need to find a job close to family. Etc. Every couple comes up with different solutions which work for them. However, you are already aware of the possibility that you may need to make a terrible choice: to break up and pursue your dreams, or to stay together and modify your dreams. My sympathies, and best of luck!